It’s February, and with the love songs, candy hearts and chocolate that come along with Valentine’s Day, just as many sniffles and coughs sweep the nation as part of flu season. This season’s flu is particularly nasty, too– over 40,000 people died during the third week of January. So, what can you do to keep from getting the flu and in the worst-case scenario, help manage any symptoms you might have? Read on to find out!
If you are lucky enough to have not gotten the flu yet this year, there are a few easy steps that you can hopefully take to keep from becoming ill.
The first step you can take is to avoid people who have symptoms. If someone is coughing, has a headache or body aches, has the chills or is exhibiting other flu-like symptoms, it’s best to avoid them entirely! The period of contagion for this year’s flu is one day before symptoms start and seven days after they start, so not meeting people who have had the flu is another great preventative measure to take! Also, be sure to keep in mind that it can take between one and four days to start showing symptoms after you are infected, so by the time someone starts coughing or feeling ill they’re already reasonably sick.
Keeping your hands clean is another excellent way to keep yourself safe– if you limit your contact with the virus, you’ll be less likely to get sick! Washing your hands is the preferred way to clean your hands of the flu, as hand sanitizers with less than 60% alcohol content aren’t efficient at removing the flu and other viruses, according to the CDC. But, hand sanitizer is better than nothing at all if you can’t get to a sink.
Keeping your hands out of your eyes, nose, and mouth is another way to limit your chances of getting sick. If you do meet someone who has the flu, and then you happen to get the flu virus on your hands, keeping your hands out of your eyes and mouth is your last line of defense to stop the infection from spreading. This tip is genuinely your last line of defense, though, and shouldn’t be relied on too heavily if you don’t intend to get sick.
Habitually wiping down surfaces, especially those that lots of people meet, is a great preventative measure for stopping the spread of illness. Alcohol-based cleaning wipes, like the Lysol brand, are an ideal quick and disposable option to keep common surfaces clean. But before you douse everything you own in alcohol, listen to this– experts at Johns Hopkins, consulted by WebMD, found very little evidence supporting the flu spreading through surfaces. However, wiping everything down with an alcohol wipe certainly couldn’t hurt your preparedness.
What to Do If You Have the Flu
If you have the flu, the best thing to do is not to go to work or school. You can get better more quickly that way, and not get everyone around you sick! If you have an autoimmune disease, are a senior, or are or have a young child, let your doctor know reasonably early once you start to show symptoms, as those groups are at a much higher risk of severe complications.
Once you’re at home and on the road to recovery, be sure to get lots of rest, drink copious amounts of fluids and monitor your symptoms. If you feel the need to take medication to lessen your symptoms, decongestants, like Sudafed and Mucinex, and cough medicines, like Delsym or Robitussin, can be your best friends. When deciding what to chow down on when sick, consider first what to drink– you should drink mostly water with some occasional fruit juices and drinks with added electrolytes to loosen your mucus and if you’re hungry, eat some chicken soup, a mom-approved staple of any sick day.
If you’re having trouble breathing without coughing, try a humidifier or a steaming hot shower to loosen up some mucus and increase your relaxation. If your throat is sore and irritable, try sucking on a cough drop or a popsicle. Tylenol can be used to lower your fever, but don’t be in any rush to get back to your daily routine: take as much rest as you need to recover and be sure not to go back to work or school until you have been fever-free for more than 24 hours without the use of Tylenol or a similar drug.