When flu season comes around everyone starts hoping they do not catch it. Many people do, but you can take some precautions that will increase your chances of avoiding it altogether. Anyone can take these steps to stay healthy during this dreaded season.

The Difference Between a Cold and the Flu
One thing that can make it difficult to stay healthy is that flu season and cold season run simultaneously. Knowing which one you have will help you get the timely treatment – if you get one or the other.

While some of the symptoms are identical, there are enough that are different to enable you to tell the difference.

  • When you get the flu, you will notice that the symptoms start abruptly. A cold takes longer to develop.
  • The flu will also usually produce symptoms of a fever, chills, fatigue, aches, a headache, and a cough – with discomfort in your chest.
  • With a cold, it is unlikely that you will have a fever or chills, a headache, or aches. You will likely have a stuffy nose, a sore throat, and sneezing.

Steps to Stay Healthy During Flu Season
You can avoid the flu by taking the following seven steps.

Get a flu shot
One of the best ways to avoid the flu is to get a flu shot. This shot will often help protect you from some of the various flu viruses that are circulating. It is especially important to get the shot if you are elderly or have low immunity levels. Taking the shot may produce some symptoms of the flu, but they are generally milder.

Stay clear of sick people
When you notice that someone in your office, workplace, or school appears sick, keep your distance. The flu is highly contagious and just being near them can cause you to get it.

Wash your hands often
Flu germs can thrive for a while on your skin. This makes it important to keep your hands clean so that you do not accidentally touch food or rub your eyes. If you are near sick people, it becomes even more important to keep them clean with soap and water or with hand cleaner.

Use a tissue or handkerchief to cover your coughs and sneezes
As stated above, flu germs can live for a while on your hands. As an alternative, sneeze or cough into a tissue, then be sure to discard it. If a tissue is not available, use the inside of your elbow.

Avoid smoking
Smoking reduces your body’s ability to fight illnesses such as the flu or colds. It will also dry out your nose, where the moisture there normally helps keep germs out.

Keep up with an exercise program
Exercise does many wonderful things for your body. Exercise that gets your heart rate up will help your body fight off viruses.

Disinfect surfaces
Surfaces that you are near during the day may be contaminated with the flu germs. Keeping surfaces disinfected and clean will help prevent you and others from getting the flu.

What to Do When You Get Sick
If you become sick, there are also some steps you should take to avoid giving the flu to someone else.

  • One important step to take is to stay home for another 24 hours after the fever is gone.
  • If you are going to be around young children, it is often more important for you, the caregiver, to get a flu shot.
  • Antiviral drugs for the flu should be obtained within the first 48 hours to reduce symptoms.

While taking these steps will not guarantee that you will not get the flu, they will certainly lower your risk level. Stay aware of who you are around and where you go – and stay healthy.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Sarah Vidumsky, PA-C