You’ve probably read that this is one nasty flu season, with individuals of all ages seemingly stricken with the bug. According to The New York State Department of Health, during the week ending January 27, 2018, there were 11,683 laboratory-confirmed influenza reports, which represents a 50 percent increase over last week. In order to help stave off this particularly dangerous pathogen, we asked Dr. Richard P. Morel, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at CareMount Medical, to share five strategies for avoiding the flu.
“The flu vaccine is the number one step you can take to prevent the flu,” says Morel. “The vaccine causes the body to generate antibodies that protects against the influenza virus. By getting the shot, you will: reduce your chances of getting the flu; minimize the symptoms if you do get sick; and help prevent spreading the flu virus to others. The flu shot is particularly critical for young children, senior citizens and pregnant women as they are more at risk for developing further health complications, such as pneumonia.
Dr. Morel adds that the vaccine “does not cause the flu or make you sick. Sometimes, people will get the vaccine and then catch a cold or another virus in the week or two after,” he says. “A natural tendency is to attribute that cold to the vaccine, but this is not the case.”
“Between school, work and traveling, your body is exposed to hundreds of thousands of germs a day,” says Morel. “Wash your hands throughout the day and especially after you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for about 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, then the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is recommended.”
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This one might sound like a no-brainer, but Dr. Morel says that If you feel a sneeze or cough coming, try to contain the germs by sneezing or coughing into your elbow. “Germs that become airborne, if not covered properly, can spread rapidly to surfaces and increase the possibility of exposure to others,” he explains. “Carry tissues in your purse, pocket and backpack to also eliminate the risk. When done with the tissue, throw it away. It is important to not reuse a tissue or handkerchief when sick.”
“If you frequently touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you are increasing the chances of developing the flu as this is an easy gateway for germs to enter your body. Avoid touching your face particularly after touching a surface or object. You should also clean public surfaces and objects, like desk tops, doorknobs and phones, with a disinfecting spray frequently.
If you do get sick, stay home! Focus on getting rest, drinking fluids and taking any medications to help treat the flu. Avoid contact with others until major symptoms, such as a high fever, go away. Additionally, if you know someone who is sick, do not engage in contact, especially if you did not receive a vaccination.