The stuffy head. The runny nose. The sore throat. The fever and chills …
There is nothing fun about having the flu!
Once you get the flu virus, the only thing you can do is fight it. Sleeping, hydrating, eating well, and taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications are usually your best defenses. But preventing those nasty germs from getting into your body is always the better option.
Want to stay healthy and safe this winter?
Here are seven healthy habits that can help to protect against the flu.
Wash Your Hands Often
From soft fabrics to hard materials, every surface we touch has some amount of germs on it. And once you touch something, those germs transfer to your hands.
Washing your hands with soap is the single best tool we have for preventing the spread of infections.
Because if your hands aren’t clean, you can transfer those germs to your eyes, nose, and mouth without realizing that you’re doing so.
Get in the habit of washing your hands often and doing so for at least 20 seconds per wash. Frequent hand washing can dry out your skin, so follow each wash with an application of moisturizer or hand lotion.
Avoid Close Contact
Since the onset of COVID-19, we’ve all become familiar with the term “social distancing.”
And social distancing isn’t just a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19; it’s a way to prevent the spread of all viruses — including flu.
One of the best ways to protect yourself against the flu is to avoid close contact with people that have it.
The flu virus spreads through droplets that we release into the air every time we sneeze, cough, and talk. To reduce the chances of getting the flu, keep some distance between yourself and other people. A single sneeze or cough can send droplets flying through the air as much as six feet or more.
Experts recommend maintaining a distance of at least six feet and more whenever possible. The further away you are from people with the flu, the less likely you will contract the virus through droplets.
Clean Frequently Touched Surfaces Often
If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to make disinfecting wipes your new best friend. Frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and faucets, get covered in all sorts of germs from different people. But you can get rid of those germs by cleaning those items with a disinfecting wipe.
Not all disinfecting wipes are equal. Before purchasing a package of wipes, read the back label. It will tell you precisely which viruses and germs those wipes can fight.
Avoid Touching Your Face
The eyes, nose, and mouth can easily absorb flu germs. You can protect yourself against flu (and other viruses) simply by not touching your face.
No matter how often you wash your hands, it’s impossible to have germ-free hands at all times.
Assume that your hands have germs on them and make it a point not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Viruses can easily seep into those orifices and start attacking your body on the inside.
Cover Your Nose and Mouth
Face masks have become both a fashion trend and a political controversy since the COVID-19 pandemic began. But for decades, medical workers and people with compromised immune systems have worn them for protection.
A simple face mask covering your nose and mouth can prevent you from breathing in all sorts of airborne germs, including those that cause the flu. A face mask is also a way to stop spreading any germs that you may already have.
Not all face masks offer equal amounts of protection.
The most protective masks are surgical masks and N95 respirator masks made with multiple layers. These are made specifically to filter out particles, pollutants, and airborne germs. The only problem is that they’re reserved for healthcare workers and people with severely compromised immune systems.
When surgical masks are not readily available, opt for cloth face masks with at least two layers of fabric. The thicker the material, the more protection they offer.
Build Up Your Immune System
Another way to protect yourself against flu viruses, colds, and other illnesses is to build up your immune system.
The effectiveness of one’s immune system is directly related to how often you “get sick.” Strong immune systems can fight off germs and bacteria. Weak immune systems do not.
With a few small changes to your diet and daily habits, you can make your immune system much more effective.
Start by keeping the body well-hydrated.
Adopt healthy eating habits by incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet. Avoid processed foods that are high in sodium, fat, and highly refined carbs. Eat and drink more foods and beverages high in Vitamin C, or add a vitamin C supplement to your daily routine.
It’s also essential to exercise regularly. Exercise increases blood flow and reduces inflammation, which helps immune cells perform at peak levels.
How to Prevent Flu Spread
Flu is not the type of virus you get once and never have to worry about getting again. Because there are so many strains of the flu virus, people can get it over and over again, even in the same season.
When you have the flu, it’s important to take precautions so that you don’t continue to spread the virus. You can do so by wearing a face mask so that your droplets don’t spread to other people. Whenever you’re not wearing a face mask, use your hand or elbow to cover your mouth or nose every time you cough or sneeze.
At the first sign of flu-like symptoms, try to isolate yourself from other people. Stay home from school and work. Spend as much time as possible in one part of the house (such as your bedroom), so you don’t spread it to your family or roommates.
After you recover from the virus, clean and disinfect every single surface thoroughly. That way, other members of your household don’t pick up your residual germs.
By helping to prevent the spread of the virus, you can reduce your chances of getting infected with it again after you’ve recovered.
We are all susceptible to the flu virus, but you can do some simple things to reduce your chances of contracting the virus.
Wash your hands and clean household surfaces often. Avoid touching your face and close contact with people. When you’re not alone, wear a face mask. Eat right and exercise to build up your immune system.
And if you do get the flu, do what it takes to prevent the spread. The fewer people that have the flu, the less likely you are to contract it in the first place.
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Copper Beech State College – Parkway Plaza to help them with their online marketing.