A Flu-Proof You
Keep yourself and your family flu-free by strengthening your
immune system with these prevention tips
There's no doubt about it-the winter season is
busy. Between shopping, cooking, holiday parties and family
gatherings, it's hard to slow down and find some "me" time. One
thing you don't want slowing you down this winter: the seasonal
influenza (flu) virus. To stay healthy this year, Jon Temte, M.D.,
Ph.D., a spokesman for the American Academy of Family of
Physicians, explains what you can do to stay flu-proof.
Just because you're sniffling and sneezing doesn't mean you
necessarily have the flu. In an average year, up to 20 percent of
the U.S. population will come down with flu, a contagious
respiratory illness caused by a virus. "Flu symptoms tend to be
more severe than cold symptoms, although they can look similar,"
Dr. Temte says. These common symptoms include fever, cough, sore
throat, muscle aches, fatigue and headaches.
Sharing Is Not Caring
If you get sick, you won't be doing classmates or co-workers a
favor by going to school or the office. Instead, stay home and get
well. "The best way to prevent transmission is to avoid contact
with other people if you are sick," Dr. Temte says. But if you
experience severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing, dizziness or
persistent vomiting, head to your doctor's office or the emergency
room for further evaluation.
Keep It Up
To stay free of the flu, keep up with your regular healthy
habits that include eating well, relaxing and exercising. In fact,
"studies show that relaxation and meditation can
improve immune system response," Dr. Temte says. "This can help
prevent you from coming down with colds and flu and make them less
of an issue if you do get sick."
Try these preventive tips to stop the flu in its tracks:
- Soap up. Wash your hands throughout the day (especially if you
are around someone who is sick). And carry hand sanitizer in your
purse or car.
- Get vaccinated. "The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention] recommends that all Americans should be vaccinated for
the 2010-11 flu season," Dr. Temte says. This year's vaccine, which
includes protection against H1N1 and two other flu strains, became
widely available in September.
- Cover up. Use a tissue to cover your mouth when you cough or
sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, use your elbow, not your
- Take time for you. Schedule regular massages. Massage therapy
and other healthy lifestyle habits such as yoga have been shown to
boost your immune system naturally.
-By Julie Wlodychak