Everything You Need to Know about the Flu

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.

Here are some tips straight from the CDC you should pass along. Most of them are actually common sense but most of us ignore them.

Avoid close contact.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick and vice versa. When you’re sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

Stay home when you are sick.

If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.

Cover your mouth and nose.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

Clean your hands.

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

Practice other good health habits.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Myths About the Flu:

You can catch the flu from the flu shot.

No, you can’t. Really. It takes a week or two to get protection from the vaccine.  So people who get sick after receiving a flu vaccination were going to get sick anyway. If you do get the flu before or just after rolling up your sleeve, don’t blame your runny nose and sore throat on the shot. The vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that can’t transmit infection.

The “stomach flu” is the flu.

As miserable as symptoms of the flu are, digestive issues are rarely one of them. Many people use the term “stomach flu” to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria or even parasites. The flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease.

If you get the flu, the shot didn’t work.

It’s true that the flu vaccine doesn’t offer 100% protection. Usually, the flu shot is usually only about 60 to 90% effective. This year it’s even lower. They’re saying it’s in the range of 25 -35% effective. That’s because multiple strains circulate every year, and it’s difficult for scientists to predict perfectly which strains will be dominant. If this happens, there is an upside: your symptoms will likely be less severe, since the shot will probably be at least somewhat effective against the strain you have. And keep in mind that to the CDC, a flu shot is a success if it prevents hospitalizations and deaths, not if you sail through the season without a sniffle.

Bonus Tips:

I do a daily nasal rinse with a bulb syringe to flush out viruses and help clear my sinuses. You can buy a neti pot at the  drugstore—I like NeilMed Sinus Rinse —or make your own: Mix 3 teaspoons iodide-free salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Add 1 teaspoon of this mixture to 1 cup distilled or cooled boiled water.

Rest up.

Try to get as much sleep as possible.  Research shows that our bodies need seven to eight hours of sleep in order to stimulate an immune response from our ‘natural killer cells,’ which attack viruses. Sleep is my most reliable defense against infection. I am a huge believer that rest is key.  Sleep is so important for many reasons but studies show that people who slept at least 8 hours a night were 3 times less likely to come down with a cold than those who got 7 hours or less. That’s a huge difference.

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