Influenza or the flu comes and goes. When it hits you at your most vulnerable moments, you become weak and miserable. Because it’s contagious, you won’t be able to go to work or school. For some people, it can be life-threatening.
Symptoms Of The Flu
The following are symptoms people feel when they have the flu:
- Sore throat
- Muscle or body aches
- Stuffy or runny nose
Others may experience diarrhea and vomiting, though it’s usually children who have them.
Complications Of The Flu
The flu may also cause complications, such as:
- Ear and sinus infections
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Congestive heart failure
Today, organizations don’t allow individuals to go to work when infected with the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), employees must wait 24 hours until their fever is gone before they can report to work.
Those who don’t have a fever but have other symptoms must stay home for four to five days. This is because the flu is most contagious between the first and third day of illness.
Although the flu can break any time of the year, it’s most prevalent in fall and winter. Read on to learn the essential healthy habits you should adopt to protect yourself against the flu.
1. Get Vaccinated
In the past, hundreds of thousands of people died from the flu worldwide. This has declined substantially with the introduction of flu vaccines. According to experts, keeping current with shots along with healthy habits can help reduce the likelihood of getting the flu.
Vaccines reduce the severity of symptoms of influenza. In 2021, about 1.432 million doses of influenza vaccine were administered in New Zealand alone.
Using a weakened or deactivated version of the influenza virus, the flu vaccine helps your body identify an antigen, which is a protein, on the surface of the virus. As a result, your immune system produces antibodies that will fight the flu. The amount of antibodies present in your body is highest one to two months after you’re vaccinated and then it declines.
There are other facts about the flu vaccine that are worth knowing:
- It’s still safe to take the flu shot even if you have asthma. People who are allergic to eggs can get the flu shot as well.
- Normally, the flu vaccine barely causes side effects. Most people notice a tender or swollen area where the shot is given.
- As mentioned earlier, the flu shot uses a deactivated version of the influenza virus, but this doesn’t mean you’ll get the flu when you get vaccinated. This is because the flu shot is made of viruses that were killed or parts of the virus.
Once you receive the flu shot, it will take about a couple of weeks for your body to build immunity to influenza.
2. Wash Your Hands Frequently
The flu can live on surfaces for several hours. Since there’s no way to tell whether flu germs live on surfaces, you need to wash your hands frequently. Experts recommend washing hands with disinfecting soap and lukewarm water for at least 20 seconds or just about the duration of 2 happy birthday songs.
You’re most at risk when you touch your nose, mouth, and eyes, so avoid touching those areas.
3. Practice Good Hygiene
Aside from washing your hands, you can do the following to practice good hygiene:
- Avoid sharing personal items with others.
- Don’t use your hand to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze. Turn away from others and use tissue instead or cough and sneeze into your arm.
- Disinfect surfaces regularly, such as phones, doorknobs, desks, and computer keyboards.
- Bedding and towels harbor germs and viruses. Wash them in hot water and dry them in high heat to kill the germs.
- Keep a hand sanitizer in your bathroom.
These practices are standard and easy to follow. By doing them, you’ll keep your family healthy and safe.
4. Boost Your Immune System
Engaging in various activities can help fight infections. Here’s how you can boost your immune system:
- Exercise regularly. At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or jogging, will do.
- Stay hydrated. Drink at least 70 ounces of fluid per day to flush out toxins present in your system.
- Manage stress. Stress-reducing activities, such as meditation and yoga, will be beneficial.
- Reduce chemical intake like artificial sweeteners from bottled beverages.
When your immune system is at its peak, the virus will fail to survive in your body.
5. Eat A Balanced Diet
A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients leads to a more robust immune system. Fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, like berries, can protect your body against damage caused by free radicals. You should also eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and leafy greens.
Fiber-rich foods, like avocados and beans, support your immune health too. Apart from fruits and vegetables, include whole grains and lean protein sources in your diet since they improve gut health and help build and repair tissue to fight infections better.
6. Live A Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle can reduce your chances of getting sick. Smoking and drinking alcohol are two of the most harmful things you can do to your body since they significantly affect your immune system.
Smoking compromises the equilibrium of the immune system. This is why smokers are more prone to getting sick than those who don’t smoke.
On the other hand, alcohol consumption damages the liver, which functions as the body’s filter for toxins. When toxins are present in your body, there’s a higher chance for free radicals to invade the system and cause health problems.
7. Wear A Mask
Masks effectively protect people from airborne viruses. They block the spread of respiratory droplets and are best worn indoors when physical distancing is impossible. Their effectiveness in preventing the flu from becoming widespread has already been tested.
So, if you experience symptoms of the flu, it’s best to wear a mask to protect people around you. This is especially important if you live with people with comorbidities and children, as they’re more susceptible to the virus.
8. Avoid Close Contact With Sick People
Since the flu is quite contagious, you need to keep your distance from people exhibiting symptoms.
9. Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses. But when you get enough sleep, your body produces cytokines. Cytokines are a protein that play an essential role in helping your body respond better to infections and inflammation.