Health Habits: Flu Prevention

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) last year’s flu season was rough.  Clinics and emergency departments received high volume of people with influenza.  The flu viruses are known to affect the nose, throat and lungs with various complications such as ear and sinus infections.  Severe complications such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, and sepsis are also possible, leading to death in some cases. Certain populations are at higher risk of more serious complications from the flu.  This includes (but not limited to) the very young, the elderly, those with asthma, heart and/or lung disease, the immunocompromised and those with diabetes mellitus. 

To decrease likelihood of getting the flu there are several things you can do:

Flu shot – the CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.  The efficacy of the shot varies from person to person, but according to the CDC it is one of the best tools of modern medicine.  

Covering your mouth- Did you know that when you sneeze or cough, droplets are expelled at speeds of 50-100mph? It’s no wonder how easy it is to contract illnesses!  Thousands of droplets come out of your mouth with each sneeze or cough, spreading your germs.  The best thing to do is to cover your mouth with a tissue and then wash your hands immediately.  If you’re unable to do so, cough or sneeze into your elbow.  Hand sanitizer is also very handy.  

Hand washing – Many diseases are spread by lack of hand washing or poor hand hygiene.  Soap and clean, warm running water are best for getting the job done, but when inaccessible be sure to have alcohol-based hand sanitizer that’s 60% alcohol.  Wet your hands with clean running water, then lather your hands well with soap getting the backs of your hands, in between fingers, and under your nails.  Next, scrub your hands for no less than 20 seconds – count it out slowly.  It is the amount of friction that makes for effective germ reduction.  Rinse your hands clean and thoroughly.  Dry your hands with a paper towel, then turn off the faucet with the paper towel. Avoid touching the handles of the faucet or door handles with bare hands after hand washing.

Vitamin D – Be sure to get your vitamin D from adequate sunlight and fatty fish such as Salmon, Tuna and mackerel.  Vitamin D plays an important role in signaling immune response to viral and bacterial infection.  

Eat well year-round – Consistent intake of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals will help maintain your immune system and help you fight off infections and illnesses. Eat whole food sources of these nutrients as studies have shown that food sources are more effective than isolated compounds in pill or powder form.

This week’s health habit: begin to incorporate these things into your daily routine to give yourself and others a fighting chance against the flu.  Also check out the CDC’s website (www.cdc.gov) to learn more about the things discussed in this article.  

 

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