by Amy Roper
(last updated January 17, 2012)
Chances are you have experienced the flu at least once in your life—if not every flu season. The flu is very common, causing inconvenient and uncomfortable symptoms like fever, sore throat, congestion, chills, fatigue, body aches, and headaches. It can even be fatal to those with compromised immune systems, particularly the very young and elderly. While there are many treatments available for the flu, most people would agree that it's best to just to avoid it in the first place. While we can't do much about the existence of germs, we can avoid them.
Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth, as germs can easily enter this way. Avoid contact with people who are already sick; don't share eating utensils, kiss mouth-to-mouth, etc., and try not to be in closed spaces with a sick person for an extended period of time. If someone within six feet of you sneezes or coughs, turn your head away for ten seconds until the air clears. Encourage anyone sneezing or coughing around you to sneeze into a disposable tissue or the inside of his or her elbow rather than a hand.
Wash your hands frequently—properly and thoroughly wash by rubbing soap on your hands for fifteen to thirty seconds and rinsing with warm water. You could also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
There are vitamins and minerals that are immune boosting—particularly vitamins E, C, and B-complex. You could also take specifically formulated over-the-counter immune boosters like Emergence-C, Airborne, or Zicam. Yogurt and fresh fruits and vegetables also contain natural probiotics and vitamins to ward off infection.
Consider getting a flu shot, especially if you have a chronic illness, live with someone with a chronic illness, are over age fifty, or work/live closely with a lot of people in a small space. Check with your healthcare provider to know if you should immunize young children in daycare.
Avoid smoking and drinking: smoking actually paralyzes the cilia in your nose, leaving them unable to keep out invading viruses. Moderate to heavy use of alcohol has also been shown to compromise the immune system, leaving you open to more frequent illness.
Reduce stress on your mind and body through healthy habits: sleep seven to nine hours every night, eat a healthy, regular diet, and exercise. Reducing stress will keep your immune system strong and on guard against pathogens.
Following these guidelines should protect you not only from the flu, but from other harmful germs as well. The best medicine is prevention. If you do start developing a cough or sneeze, sore throat, fever, or body aches, do everything you can to clear your schedule to stay home and rest—this will not only help you heal faster, but will keep germs from spreading to others who don't want the flu any more than you do.
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