Every year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designates the week after Thanksgiving as National Influenza Vaccination Week. This annual event is aimed at educating people on the virus and encouraging them to get vaccinated.
For the most part, we don’t always think of the flu as a serious or life-threatening illness, but it can be. Young children, the elderly and people with health problems are more likely to suffer from flu complications due to weakened immune systems. Some emergency warning signs include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe vomiting
- Chest pain and/or pressure
- Fever with a rash
When it comes to flu treatment options, there aren’t many. You can do one of three things: prevent the flu, treat the flu or ease flu symptoms. If you’re looking to stop the flu before symptoms start, you’ll have to consider prescription antivirals in the form of injections or nasal sprays.
Personally, I hate injections of any kind and have read that both the flu vaccine and nasal spray can sometimes cause minor side effects such as swelling, aches, pains and even low-grade fevers. I also usually shy away from unnecessary medications if I can and prefer to practice good hygiene as a way to prevent the flu. While not foolproof and definitely not as effective as getting a flu shot, by following these easy, drug-free tips, I’ve been able to stave away the sniffles for the past 3 winters in a row:
- Cover up. I try to cover up my nose and mouth with a tissue when I cough and sneeze to stop the spreading of germs
- Wash hands frequently. Flu viruses are mostly spread by direct contact, which is why I wash my hands often. I also keep hand sanitizer handy in case I can’t get to a sink.
- Avoid touching your face. Viruses enter your body through your nose, eyes or mouth.
- Exercise regularly. Sounds silly, but it’s true: exercise speeds up your heart to pump larger quantities of blood, which also helps transfer more oxygen and increase your body’s natural flu-killing cells.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. The natural chemicals in plants can actually give your immune system a huge boost, which is why you should eat more of these foods during flu season.
- Breathe cleaner air. We tend to stay indoors more during flu season due to the cold, but did you know indoor air can sometimes be much more polluted than outdoor air? My air purifier is always on during the fall and winter months for this reason. Some units such as the Luma Comfort AP170W also utilize UV bulbs which destroy biological contaminants such as bacteria and viruses.
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but since the flu spreads so rapidly, it’s best to keep your distance from someone who’s sick. Moreover, if you happen to catch the flu this winter, try to stay home from work or school and away from public places for the health and well-being of those around you.