10 Things You Should Know For Flu Season
Winter is here, and so is the flu. Here’s the Twist survival guide to stay healthy this flu season (or, barring that, how to get well soon).
The flu typically peaks in February, but can start as early as October or pop up as late as May.
This graph from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calledPeak Month of Flu Activity 1982-83 through 2013-14.
The CDC estimates that between 5 and 20% of the population gets sick with the flu every flu season. In the US, flu accounts for between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths each year, with about 90 percent of the deaths occurring in people 65 years and older, according to the CDC. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.
The good news is that there are things you can do to protect yourself before you catch it.
1. Get Vaccinated
While you may not be able to completely avoid the flu, the best way to get ahead of the virus is for everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant women, to get vaccinated every year. Flu vaccines can help reduce illness and reduce sick days. It will NOT make you sick with the flu. I repeat: The flu vaccine will not give you the flu. Read all about that here.
2. Take Everyday Preventive Actions
Germs like flu viruses can spread easily in places where many people are in close contact. It is particularly important to take everyday preventive actions to help keep yourself and others from getting sick. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Your germy coughs and sneezes can travel up to six feet in diameter around you, and throw the tissue away after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If washing your hands isn’t an option, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
3. If you use hand sanitizer, do it correctly.
“Put enough on your hands to cover all the surfaces of your hands for about 15 to 20 seconds,” instructs Jim Arbogast, Ph.D., Hygiene Sciences and Public Health Advancements, Vice President at GOJO Industries, the inventors of Purell. It may seem excessive, but Arbogast says that’s how long it’ll take for the ingredients in your hand sanitizer to effectively kill enough germs. Try a dime- to nickel-sized amount, or however much you need to keep it from drying up too early. “Start with your fingertips, because those are the point of most common contact,” Arbogast says. “Then get it quickly rubbed across the entire surface of your hands.”
4. Don't touch your face.
One way the flu spreads is when you touch an infected surface, and then touch your dirty hands to your eyes, nose, or mouth. “It’s been reported that people touch their face anywhere from 15 to 50 times in an hour,” Arbogast says. Some ways to minimize face-touching: Keep a box of tissues by your desk, and use them whenever you have an itch. If you have long hair, keep it pulled back so that you’re not as tempted to mess with it (and, say, push it out of your eyes). And make a pact with a friend that you’ll call each other out whenever the other one touches their face.
5. Avoid close contact with sick people.
If your co-workers come to work sick, encourage them to go home. A virus can spread around an office — and be found on about 50% of all surfaces — in as little as four hours.
If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone and limit your contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. You can be contagious a day before you even start showing symptoms, so by the time you’re visibly ill you’re absolutely a risk to your co-workers. Do everyone a favor and stay away.
6. Eat your fruits and veggies.
Do as mom said, eat your fruits and veggies! The main foods that build up your immune system are green cruciferous vegetables, berries, mushrooms, and onions. Zinc and Vitamin D are also important in protecting your immune system. The key here is to make sure that you’re eating a nutritious diet before you get sick, because it can take months to build up your immunity … so hit up the produce aisle ASAP.
Tip for parents: Give your kids frozen berries to munch on, or a smoothie made with berries and kale (and maybe some cocoa for taste).
7. Get plenty of sleep.
Not getting enough sleep can weaken your immune system which makes you more susceptible to getting sick. Aim to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep every night.
8. Get regular moderate exercise.
Research shows that people who regularly work out with moderate intensity have stronger immune systems than people who are sedentary (as in sitting on their butts all day).
9. Feeling sick? Figure out if you have the flu, or if it’s just a cold.
Colds and the flu have similar symptoms: They can both involve congestion, coughing, sneezing, and stuffy nose. The big differences: With the flu, you’ll have a high fever and all-over body aches. Not so much with a cold. And the flu comes on much faster than a cold typically does, colds come on a lot more gradually.
10. Know what meds can help you (and realize that most probably can’t).
If you do get the flu, prescription antiviral drugs, like Tamiflu may help treat your illness and can make it milder and shorten the length of your flu by about a day. Antivirals may also prevent serious flu complications. Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you do have flu symptoms such as fever, aches, chills, tiredness with sudden onset. Studies show that flu antiviral drugs are most effective when taken within 2 days of getting sick. The flu is a virus, which means that antibiotics will have no effect on it at all. None. Zip.
Other than an antiviral, no other medicine can make the flu end sooner. Your standard OTC cold and flu meds won’t be super effective at making you feel better, either. Your best bet is stay home, get rest, keep hydrated (especially important if you’ve been sweating a ton from your fever and have been losing fluids), and maybe take Tylenol to help with your aches and pains and reduce your fever.
The flu can last up to a week (assuming it doesn’t cause a secondary illness, like pneumonia). You might want to look into a Netflix subscription to keep you company while you wallow.
Check out our page on keeping you workplace healthy. http://www.twistop.com/healthy-workplaces.html
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