It’s February—a time for love, chocolate, roses…and flu! February is generally the worst month of the year for flu because the cold dry climate keeps germs in the air longer and allows them to travel further. You could always stay inside for the month, but for a more realistic approach, there are several things you can do to conquer this flu season peak.
The immune system is the body’s defense against viruses, so keeping it strong and functioning at its best will help protect you during flu season. Start with your diet. Sugar can weaken the ability of white blood cells to fight invaders, leaving you susceptible to illness. Likewise, alcohol is frequently high in sugar and carbohydrates, which get metabolized as sugar, so keep alcohol intake to a minimum. Eat lots of vegetables, which are rich in fiber and other healthy nutrients, and drink lots of water.
Rest is an important component of immune health. Adults should get a minimum of eight to nine hours of sleep every night. Sleep is when your body heals and restores vital functions, including the immune system. White blood cell production increases as you sleep, which makes you better able to fight off viruses. In fact, people who get required nightly sleep are three times less likely to get a viral infection than those who get less than seven hours a night.
Vitamins can also help boost your immune system. Vitamins C and D have been associated with immune health. Many people benefit from a vitamin D supplement, while vitamin C is found in so many foods, it may not be necessary to supplement. As long as you are following the diet suggested above with plenty of fruits and vegetables, you are likely getting the recommended amount of vitamin C. Probiotics can also strengthen your immunity by decreasing inflammation and helping the body fight viruses and bacteria. Probiotics can also be found in foods, but additional supplements might be helpful during flu season. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplements.
Germs can live on surfaces for up to twenty-four hours, so it is important to keep surfaces and anything that comes in contact with surfaces, like your hands, clean. During the peak of flu season, take time to regularly disinfect common areas in your home and office—kitchen counters, remote control, door knobs, desk, phones, etc. Make hand washing a priority within your family. Always use soap, and wash for at least twenty seconds, being careful to wash in between fingers and up to wrists.
Flu virus most commonly enters the body through the face—nose, eyes, or mouth—so protecting this area is very important. Obviously, you can’t cover every place, but you can help prevent germs from getting close by avoiding touching your face. Your hands come in contact with germs constantly, so keeping them away from the common entry points is key. Again, washing hands is an important habit.
You can spread the flu as easily as you can contract it, and symptoms may not show up for a while after you have been infected. For this reason, it is good practice to always cover your cough with your elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If you have a fever, avoid going out until you are fever-free without medication for twenty-four hours.
Plan of Attack
Even the best laid plans fail sometimes, so having a plan to combat flu if you do get it is also important. The average duration of flu is one to two weeks, with the worst symptoms lasting around three days, so you will most-definitely miss some work—for yourself and/or your kids. Understanding your job’s sick policy and your kids’ absentee policy will help you know what to expect if the time comes and will reduce additional stress. Planning may include a standby family member or friend to help with sick kids or taking care of kids if you are ill.
Fill the pantry and medicine cabinets with things you will need if you or your children get sick. Decongestants, cough syrup, and over-the-counter analgesics like acetaminophen are helpful to have on hand. Easily-digested foods like toast, bananas, and rice are good when you aren’t feeling well and don’t have much appetite. Heed your grandmother’s advice and stock up on broth. Research shows that bone broth from chicken and turkey can help fight respiratory illnesses.
If you do get the flu, get rest and plenty of fluids. If symptoms worsen or do not resolve themselves in a timely manner, it is also a good idea to visit a doctor. The doctors at TrustCare can help you with treating flu symptoms and preventing more serious conditions like pneumonia. Visit us at one of our many locations, and Feel Better Faster!