How to Avoid the Flu
Seasonal influenza, which we call "the flu," usually starts in September each year and peaks in January. In the United States, approximately 5% to 20% of us get the flu yearly and as many as 200,000 of us have to be hospitalized with flu-related complications. What can we do to minimize our chances of becoming one of these statistics? A few common-sense precautions can go a long way to keep us healthy during flu season. They can help us avoid both the common cold and the flu.
Get the flu vaccine. There is no vaccine for colds, but there is for influenza. Getting vaccinated is the best way you can protect yourself and your family from the flu. It's important for everyone older than six months to get a flu vaccine each year, since the virus changes each year. Special vaccines are available for children and senior citizens. Ask your local La Jolla doctor for more information. Many pharmacies offer the flu vaccine and accept insurance. Take good care of yourself. Make sure you eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. Take time regularly to relax and rejuvenate.
Wash your hands frequently. To keep germs from invading your body, lather up your hands often. Use either soap and water or a hand sanitizer. Dry your hands with paper towels. Carry a hand sanitizer with you and keep one in your desk drawer.
Those with at least 60% alcohol can kill up to 99% of germs. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Keeping your hands away from your face will help prevent germs from spreading. Our eyes, nose and mouth are especially vulnerable areas where germs can enter our bodies.
Disinfect surfaces. If you frequently touch shared surfaces and objects, such as bathroom and kitchen countertops, computers, phones, desks, pens, doorknobs, grocery cart handles or exercise equipment, disinfect these regularly. Use sprays or wipes. Do this even more if someone in your home is ill.
Avoid people who are ill. As much as possible, stay away from people who are sick. Generally, those with colds are contagious for three or four days after they first become ill. Those with the flu are usually contagious for five to seven days after onset and as long as two weeks if they are children. If you are at high risk for complications, your doctor might recommend you wear a mask if you are around a sick family member or co-worker.
Avoid shared spaces as much as possible. If you are out in public a lot or have to shake hands with many people, carry a hand sanitizer to minimize the risk of being infected. Don't share food, eating utensils or drinking glasses. Consider using paper cups if someone in your family is ill.
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