Do you know the best ways to help prevent the flu? This year, help safeguard your family against illnesses with some preseason training for common cold and flu season.
1. Help maintain your immune system.
A healthy immune system is the best protection against common cold and flu season. Keep your family's natural defenses strong with these simple tactics:
- Avoid stress.1 Studies show that stress hampers your ability to stay healthy, especially during common cold and flu season, so anything you can do to combat stress helps fight germs. Try taking a mini meditation break during the day—simply close your eyes and focus on breathing in and out for a few minutes.
- Stick with a bedtime.2 When you consistently log seven to eight hours of sound sleep a night, your body has the chance to repair cells and maintain your immune system.
- Eat right and exercise.3 Nutritious foods, such as a healthy variety of fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet, give your body the nutrients it needs. Also, physical activity may help. A common recommendation is to shoot for 30 minutes of moderate activity at least three times a week.
- Get flu shots.4,5 According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the single best way to prevent getting the flu is to get a flu shot each year. Flu vaccination can be an effective means of preventing infection, particularly for those over 65, pregnant women, and anyone with a compromised immune system. The best time for vaccination is in early autumn when the flu season starts and supplies of the vaccine are more readily available. Your doctor or healthcare provider can offer advice on vaccination for your family against currently active strains of flu.
2. Fight germs.6
When you keep germs away during common cold and flu season, you can lower your risk of getting sick. Try these simple habits to help avoid stuffy noses and sore throats:
- Wash your hands. And talk to your children about why it’s important to wash theirs. A typical hand washing—before a meal, after going to the bathroom, or anytime you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose—should last 20 seconds. It’s roughly the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice in your head.6
- Bring backup. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol-based hand sanitizers can help keep hands clean when soap and water are not available.6 Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse—you will have a way to help keep your hands free of germs even when you’re on the go.
- Clean your desk. It’s a hot spot for germs at the office. Invest in some alcohol-based disinfectant wipes and clean your desk, keyboard, mouse, and phone frequently.7
For additional tips on fighting germs, the CDC offers the “An Ounce of Prevention” brochure.
3. Be prepared for flu and cold symptoms.
Despite your best efforts, it can be tough to make it through cold and flu season without anyone in the family getting sick. Stock up on the essentials while everyone is still healthy:
- Eccles R., Weber O., Editors. Common Cold. Birkäuser Advances in Infectious Disease Series. Series Editors: Schmidt, A., Weber, O., Kaufmann, S.H.E. Ch: Etiology of the common cold: Modulating Factors by Doyle, W., Cohen, S. p. 159, 2009 Birkäuser Verlag, Basel/Switzerland.
- Cohen, S., Doyle, W., Alper, C.M., Janicki-Deverts, D., Turner, R. Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Archives of Internal Medicine. 169(1): 62-67. 2009.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Seasonal Influenza (Flu)—Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm. Accessed March 2011.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Seasonal Influenza (Flu)—Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/FLU/protect/keyfacts.htm. Accessed 5 May 2011.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vaccinate Against Flu: It's Not Too Late! Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/FluPrevention/. Accessed 8 March 2011.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/. Accessed 18 October 2011.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Seasonal Influenza (Flu)—How to Clean and Disinfect Schools to Help Slow the Spread of Flu. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/cleaning.htm. Accessed 9 November 2011.