How to Avoid the Flu: Dodge the Germs and Stay Healthy
Flu season is upon us, which means we’re all wondering how to avoid the flu, catching the germs that cause fevers, sore throats, coughs and body aches. While we trust you got—or will get—your flu shot, you should still take precautions against catching flu and cold germs, which may cause mild symptoms for some, but more serious complications for others.
Click through the gallery to see easy ways how to avoid the flu this flu season—and make the season safer for others as well. Remember, we’re all in this together.
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Scrub, Scrub, Scrub
The simple act of washing your hands with soap and water, and washing them frequently, goes a long way in avoiding flu germs. Most of us aren’t aware of what often-touched surfaces we come in contact with during the day, such as door handles, computer keyboards, phones—not to mention other people who may be sick. If soap and water isn’t available the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s OK to use alcohol-based hand sanitzer.
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We absently scratch our noses, touch our lips and rub our eyes numerous times a day, but that mindless habit could be putting us at risk for getting sick. Those three points are easy gateways for the flu virus to enter the body, so it’s best to make a conscious effort to keep your hands away from your face.
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Rules for School
Kids, who are usually around other kids at school, can be super sponges for whatever illness is going around. The CDC recommends checking to see if your kid’s school or child care program does an adequate job of cleaning objects and surfaces that are used throughout the day, and making sure there’s an ample supply of things like tissues, soap and disposable wipes.
While it may be difficult to always keep an eye on this, you can also teach your kids about the importance of washing their hands, and the right way to do it. Remember the Happy Birthday song? Have them sing or hum it twice—at normal speed—while washing up.
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Go to Bed
Getting enough sleep is a big part of keeping your immune system healthy. Sleep deprivation may hamper your body’s ability to fight infection. A recent study in the journal Sleep found that among people who received a hepatitis B vaccine, those who slept less than six hours a night had fewer antibodies compared with those who got seven or more hours of sleep a night. So hit the sack and stay there.
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Work It Out
As if you needed another reason to exercise, but here you go: Being physically active may help stave off illness. A 2010 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine tracked about 1,000 people over several weeks and found that those who were healthy and exercised the most were less likely to get a cold. If they did get sick, the illness wasn’t that serious. Other studies suggest that moderate workouts might be linked with fewer colds. Go for a brisk walk, high-tail it to the gym—whatever works. Just make sure your cardiovascular system gets revved up.
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How many times have you been out in public and seen someone cough or sneeze without covering? That’s a terrific way to spread flu germs, the CDC says. The flu can be transmitted from person to person, and one way is by inhaling or touching the droplets (think spray) that are produced during a sneeze or cough. If you don’t have time to grab a tissue, bend your arm and let it fly into your upper sleeve or elbow—not in your hands. While doing this won’t prevent you from getting the flu, it will protect others, and you’ll be setting a great example for your fellow humans.
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Giving Care and Taking Care
Taking care of someone who has the flu may win you brownie points, but it may also make you susceptible to catching their germs. How to stay safe? The CDC suggests you avoid getting up close and person with said sick person as much as possible—so sorry, no good-night kisses. And try to avoid being in the line of fire of coughs and sneezes, although that can be tough with kids, who often surprise with sneak attacks.
Be sure to wash your hands after touching someone who’s sick or after handling their dirty tissues or laundry.
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Since the flu virus is microscopic there’s no way to know where it’s lurking. However, germs can live on inanimate surfaces for a few minutes up to 48 hours or more, says Dr. James M. Steckelberg of the Mayo Clinic. However, how long those germs can effectively make you sick is not really know.
However, Steckelberg does say that in general, germs can last a little longer on less porous surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel compared to more absorbent materials such as fabric. The environment—temperature, humidity—factor in to a microbe’s lifespan as well.