If you’re like me, the change of seasons brings a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the warmer weather months, but it also brings the dreaded cold and flu season.
Have you ever wondered why the flu is much more prevalent during the winter months than at any other time of the year? The reason--the virus responsible for this ailment is more stable in a cold, dry environment and tends to remain in the air longer in these conditions than in an environment where the air is warm and moist.
While we can’t always prevent catching a cold or the flu, there are a few preventative measures we can take to avoid the onslaught of these illnesses.
- Get a flu shot! Those who need to get one are the elderly, children between the age of 6 months and 5 years and anyone suffering from a chronic disease. If you are not too sure if you should take one, please don’t hesitate to ask your health care provider. Also, make sure you take the flu vaccine before you are exposed. It takes a few weeks for your body to build the antibodies responsible to fight the bug, so timing is very important. And just because you took the flu vaccine last year does NOT mean you don’t need to take it again this year. The flu strains change from season to season, so last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s strain.
- Wash your hands with soap and water! I don’t know how many times we need to be reminded, but washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to prevent the transmission of the flu and/or cold viruses. That being said, it takes at least 20 seconds of a good washing to kill the germs. The standard is to sing “Happy Birthday” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” twice before rinsing.
- If you do not have access to soap or water, it is not a bad idea to carry a small bottle of sanitizing gel with you.
- Keep your thermostat at 68 degrees or higher and don’t hesitate to add some humidity in the air. As mentioned earlier, the flu bug loves a cold, dry environment.
- Sneeze or cough into your sleeves! As crazy as this sounds, kids today are being taught to sneeze and cough into their sleeves to prevent the transmission of germs. Many schools are now teaching their students how to do just that.
- Dispose of all tissues immediately after use. Dirty tissues left on any surface can transmit the germs for up to 2 hours on that surface, therefore leaving the germs just waiting to be picked up by any unsuspecting person.
- Make sure you do not scrimp on your R and R. Sleep plays an important role in helping the body keep its immune system in tip top shape.
- While there is no cure for the common cold or flu, staying hydrated is essential to the healing process. Some studies have suggested that green tea may help ease symptoms but further research is needed.
So far we have yet to hear of a flu outbreak as of today. And while it would be a miracle to not have a widespread outbreak, taking small, yet effective, precautionary measures can be the difference between being bedridden with fever, chills, and a cough and carrying on with your day.
Do you take a flu shot? What measures do you take to prevent spreading the flu within your own home/work place?