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Protect Yourself Against Cold and Flu

elderly man wrapped in blankets and holding a cup of hot tea and hot water bottle sitting on couch

 

We’re in the midst of cold and flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), February tends to be the peak month for flu. One study showed that wintertime increases your risk of getting the flu because cold temperatures and low humidity dramatically increase the transmission of the virus. So what can you do to protect yourself? Here are some tips to help you stay healthy this flu season.

Get a flu shot

If you haven’t already done so, get a flu shot. While it’s not 100 percent effective and can’t guarantee you would get the flu, it helps your odds. This year’s vaccine includes protection against both N1H1 and H3N2 strains as well as two B strains. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of six months get a flu shot and particularly those most vulnerable to getting the flu, which includes:

  • Women who are pregnant
  • Children aged six months to four years
  • Adults age 50 and older

Avoid contact with people who are sick

While this isn’t always possible, if you have a colleague or family member who’s sniffling and sneezing, do your best to avoid contact with them. If contact is unavoidable, such as putting a child to bed at night or riding a bus full of people who may be sick, consider wearing a flu mask. 

Wash your hands frequently

You’ve heard it before, but this really is the best way to protect yourself. The reason hand washing works is that soap and water remove the germs and bacteria that are trapped in the natural oils of your skin. Because soap doesn’t kill the virus, proper technique is very important. You should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, which may feel longer than necessary. Be sure to wash your wrists and between fingers, and even under the fingernails. If soap and water isn’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains alcohol.

If you’re sick, stay at home

If you notice that you’re coming down with symptoms common with the flu (fever, cough, sore throat, aches, stuffy/runny nose), stay and home and take care of yourself. This will not only help you reduce symptoms, it will help from spreading the disease. Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and treat aches and fever with medications such as acetaminophenibuprofen, or naproxen. If you’re 20 or older, you can also consider taking aspirin. Try taking a hot bath, sit in a steamy bathroom, or run a humidifier.

Practice preventive health measures

One way to protect yourself against colds and flu is to maintain a healthy lifestyle – exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep. If you have allergies, treat them, as an inflamed respiratory tract makes you more susceptible to getting a virus.

With a little diligence, you can reduce your risk of getting the flu this winter.

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your health care provider. If you notice flu symptoms, contact your doctor.

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