What can I do to protect myself from the flu?
Because flu is contagious even before the first symptoms appear, you can spread the disease without even knowing you are sick. Influenza is spread by droplets that travel through the air when you cough, talk or sneeze. Those droplets can be inhaled directly or land on objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, computers or telephones, where germs can linger anywhere from two to eight hours. Good hygiene, along with good health habits and a little common sense can help prevent the spread of the flu:
- Wash your hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to protect yourself from germs.
- Avoid touching your face. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. This helps prevent those around you from getting sick. Don’t have a tissue? Cough into the crook of your elbow or upper sleeve to prevent the spread of germs.
- If you are sick, stay home to help prevent others from getting sick. People with the flu can spread it to others who are up to six feet away.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Take care of yourself, get plenty of sleep, manage your stress, eat healthy, exercise daily and drink plenty of liquids to stay healthy.
Get the flu Vaccination
Influenza is a serious disease that can cause hospitalization and sometimes death. Every flu season is different and influenza affects everyone differently. Even healthy individuals can get very sick from the flu. That is why it is important to protect yourself and those you love by getting vaccinated. The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older get vaccinated against the seasonal flu as soon as vaccines for the current season, which runs from October to March, are available. A new flu vaccine is developed every year, and is designed to protect against three to four influenza viruses that are expected to be most common during the upcoming season.
Even though the CDC recommends getting the vaccine as early in the season as possible, it is still beneficial anytime, even during peak outbreaks. Vaccines are given via an injection or nasal spray. Talk to your primary care physician about which method and vaccine is best for you. If you don’t have a primary care physician, visit MedicalGroupoftheCarolinas.com to establish care or visit one of our Immediate Care Centers.
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