As winter sets in, humidity drops and the flu thrives. If you spend a lot of time in public places, have a chronic illness, or are older, youâ€™re at an increased risk for catching influenza.
The best way to prevent the flu is to limit your exposure. Flu has two modes of transmission: in the air, and hand-to-face.
- Avoid sick people whose coughing and sneezing may infect you with the flu.
- Flu can live for hours outside the body, days if itâ€™s sheltered in mucus. One study found that influenza can live up to 17 days on a banknote (with mucus). Wash your hands often, and especially before eating or touching your face.
- If someone at home is sick, use a humidifier to deter flu transmission.
If you work in a public place (a store, a hospital, a school…) and canâ€™t avoid exposure to influenza, or if you are at higher risk for contracting and having complications from influenza, then protect yourself by keeping your immune system strong:
- Natural supplements including those that aid nutrition help your body stay at itâ€™s peak.
- Exposure to sunlight not only aids in preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder, but deters flu transmission. So make sure to get your daily Vitamin D, just make sure you stay warm.
- Remember that alcohol and other drugs suppress your immune system.
- If you want to get the flu vaccine, nowâ€™s the time (currently, flu activity is low). The vaccine protects against the 3 most likely strains of influenza, but has been taken by surprise in the past with outbreaks of new, deadlier strains like swine flu and bird flu.
What about the Swine Flu and Bird Flu pandemics?
Over the last year rates of both swine flu and bird flu have gone down, and are not expected to be as widespread this year. However, if youâ€™re travelling to Asia, specifically India, know that although rates are down, a small percentage of such large populations is still significant, and so you should be extra rigorous with precautions, as listed above.
Symptoms of the Flu:
- A Fever, often accompanied by severe chills. (Note: The higher the fever, the more contagious you are.)
- Sometimes, Nausea
- A Sore Throat
- Sometimes, Sinus Problems (as above, mucus helps influenza spread)
Most people take 1-2 weeks to get over the flu. Avoid people while you have the flu; a good indicator that you can return to work (if you feel strong enough) is not having a fever (without having taken fever-reducing medicine).
Keep warm, stay hydrated, and rest in bed. If you get worse or the flu lasts longer that 2 weeks, see a doctor.
The flu can turn into pneumonia, and can have other complications if you already have a chronic illness like asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, or ear infections.