Free from the Flu12.12.10
It’s flu season. And although influenza is a serious and highly contagious viral infection, you don’t have to be one of the millions affected each year. Dr. Doris X. Muñoz of the Grady Health System in Atlanta shares five ways to help you stay free from the flu.
No.1 Get Vaccinated
The first and most important step to prevent the flu virus is to get a yearly flu vaccine.
Flu strains vary from year to year and flu vaccines are made to protect against the viruses that research suggests will be most common during the upcoming season.
This year flu vaccine will protect against an influenza A H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the 2009 H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated against the flu for the 2010-2011 flu season.
No. 2 Wash Your Hands
Viruses are everywhere and the most common way to get infected is by direct contact. Virus can survive on your hands for hours and washing your hands regularly is a extremely effective way to decrease the chances of getting sick. Use warm water, wash with soap for at least 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice), and if possible use your towel to turn off the faucet. If you are not near soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will do.
No. 3 Care for Your Body
Staying healthy will increase your body natural defenses that will fight and overcome the common viral infections without causing you to become sick.
Stick to a diet rich of fiber, protein, fruits, veggies and antioxidants. Drink plenty of water. Take your vitamins. Exercise most days of the week, get enough sleep and relax. Try some yoga for and extra boost to your immune system.
No. 4 Follow Hygiene Basics
Flu virus can survive for hours and be present in common items like doorknobs and desks in houses, work places, schools and public areas.
Use products and disinfecting wipes to sanitize areas. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw tissue in the trash after use it. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, germs spread this way. Limit close contact with sick people and wash your hands several times per day.
No. 5 Stay at Home
Adults can spread the flu virus up to a day before developing the symptomsand three to seven days after symptoms start; children can pass the virus evenlonger. If you are having influenza like illness, try to stay at home for atleast 24 hours after the fever is gone (your fever should be gone withoutthe help of fever reducing medicines). Get enough rest and follow yourdoctor’s clinical advice and recommendations.While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep frominfecting them.
Written by: Doris X. Muñoz, MD
Dr. Muñoz is the medical director of family medicine / bariatric medicine of the Grady Health System, North Fulton Health Center