The Flu Revisited: 13 Ways to Avoid and/or Minimize the Flu in 2013

Alas, another inauguration season is here.  A season of parades, balls, and numerous other celebrations awaits.  Thousands of people will be milling about enjoying the festivities.  The flu will be there, too.  Will you be its next victim?

13 Ways to Avoid and/or Minimize the Flu in 2013

1.     Get a Flu Shot
2.     Obtain the FluMist® Nasal Spray
3.     Be Mindful of Children, the Elderly, and the Immunosuppressed
4.     Avoid Touching Commonly-Handled Objects with Your Bare Hands
5.     Keep Your Hands Away from Your Face
6.     Wash Your Hands Frequently, and Carry and Use Hand Sanitizer
7.     Stay Away from Other People Who Are Ill
8.     Stay Away from Places Where Ill People Are Present
9.     Use Caution When Caring for Ill People
10.   Eat Healthy, Well-Balanced Meals, and Drink Plenty of Fluids
11.   Dress Warmly
12.   Stay Home From Work if You Become Ill
13.   Take Care of Yourself if You Become Ill

1.  Get a Flu Shot
It is not too late to obtain a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, Food and Drug Administration, and other public health experts recommend a flu cocktail annually based upon predicted strains of viral prevalence in the new flu season.  This year, the selected viral strains for inclusion in the vaccine cocktail are:
A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus
A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus
B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus.
Although available since early fall in most locations in the Northern Hemisphere, many people did not receive a flu shot prior to January 2013.(1)
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Photo: Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Douglas Jordan, M.A.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the shot is still at least 62% effective.  Receipt of the shot minimizes flu symptoms even if the flu is later contracted.  It is better than not having received the shot and experiencing the full brunt of flu symptoms.  This is particularly true of infected children, the elderly, and the immunosuppressed.
The Health Map Flu Vaccine Finder at http://flushot.healthmap.org/ is a great resource for locating a flu vaccine facility near you.

2. Obtain the FluMist® Nasal Spray

Photo: Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Douglas Jordan, M.A.

The FluMist® nasal spray is a good alternative to the flu shot.  The difference is that FluMist® is a live, attenuated vaccine that is administered intranasally rather than by injection into the arm.  The fact that FluMist® is a live, attenuated vaccine makes it contraindicated for children under the age of 2, children or adolescents receiving aspirin, the elderly over the age of 50, pregnant women, people with certain chronic diseases, and the immunosuppressed. (2)

3. Be Mindful of Children, the Elderly, and the Immunosuppressed

Photo: Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Amanda Mills

Children and the elderly (individuals age 65 and over) are especially vulnerable to the flu.  The immune systems of very young children are not fully developed but strengthen later in childhood with increasing age.

Later in life, the immune system weakens.  Thus, the flu shot should be administered to all children aged 6 months and older and to all seniors aged 65 and over.(3)


Photo: Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Judy Schmidt

4. Avoid Touching Commonly-Handled Objects with Your Bare Hands
Door knobs, door handles, light switches, bathroom fixtures, tabletop surfaces, restaurant menus, subway handles, gasoline pumps – all of these are common surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus.  Shaking hands with a person who may be infected is a major no-no.(4, 5)

5. Keep Your Hands Away from Your Face
Transferring the flu virus from the hands to the face – particularly the eyes, nose, and mouth – is the most common way people become infected with the flu.  Try to be mindful of this habit. (4)

6. Wash Your Hands Frequently, and Carry and Use Hand Sanitizer
Wash your hands frequently during cold and flu season as soon as possible after touching a contaminated surface.  A general rule of thumb is to wash your hands under warm to hot running water for at least 20 seconds to kill the flu virus.  Hand sanitizer serves the same purpose, so be sure to keep it handy in the event that hand washing facilities are not immediately accessible.(6)

Photo: Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Amanda Mills

7. Stay Away from Other People Who Are Ill
If it is not possible to do so, then follow steps 4, 5, and 6.

8. Stay Away From Places Where Ill People Are Present
As with step 7, this will substantially reduce your chances of becoming ill.  Frequenting large public gathering places such as movie theaters, malls, and other public places is not ideal if flu conditions in your city or town are at epidemic levels.

9. Use Caution When Caring for Other Ill People
Follow steps 5 and 6.  Also, frequently launder bedding, sheets, and towels in hot water.  Try to keep the home as clean as possible by using a disinfect on non- porous surfaces.  Use a disinfect spray in the room where the ill person is convalescing.  Do not share eating or drinking utensils. (4)

10. Eat Healthy, Well-Balanced Meals, and Drink Plenty of Fluids
Eating healthy, well-balanced meals helps bolster immunity and helps build resistance to contracting the flu.  Although this will not necessarily prevent one from contracting the flu, it is likely that flu symptoms will be lessened and recovery will be faster in an individual who eats in a healthy manner.  A diet rich in whole grains, a variety of vegetables and fruits, and sources of lean protein is recommended.  Certain foods, such as blueberries and raspberries, are high in anti-oxidants – chemicals with special disease fighting properties.  Drinking lots of fluids is very important, as well.(7)

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Photo: Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Amanda Mills

11. Dress Warmly
Although colds and flu are not caused by inadequate clothing, the body’s defenses are lowered if not kept adequately warm. Lowered immunity decreases the immune system’s reserves for fighting infection. Wearing warm clothes can help guard against this.(8)

12. Stay Home from Work if You Become Ill


Photo: Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Brian Judd

Staying home from work if you become ill is important in preventing the transmission of the flu to others.  Aerosolized droplets of the flu virus can travel as far as 6 feet or more.  Sneezing or coughing in a closed workspace can be detrimental to the health of your co-workers.  The virus can survive on workspace surfaces for up to 8 hours or more.(9)  Again, stay home from work if you become ill.  Your co-workers will thank you for it, later.

13. Take Care of Yourself if You Become Ill
Symptoms of the flu include a dry cough, nasal congestion, fever, chills, excessive fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle and body aches.  Rest and drink plenty of fluids.  Severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chest or abdominal pain, dizziness, seizures, or confusion warrant a visit to the emergency room. Anti-viral medications are advised if prescribed by a doctor. (3, 9)

References

1. “FDA Approves Vaccines for the 2012-2013 Influenza Season.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration Website. August 13, 2012. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm315365.htm. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
2. “Seasonal Influenza (Flu): The Nasal-Spray Flu Vaccine (Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine [LAIV]).” August 31, 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/nasalspray.htm . Retrieved January 15, 2013.
3. “Seasonal Influenza: CDC Says ‘Take 3’ Actions to Fight the Flu.” January 10, 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm. January 14, 2013.
4. “Seasonal Influenza: Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza in Healthcare Settings.” January 9, 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/healthcaresettings.htm#influenza. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
5. Scott, Jennifer Acosta. “10 Hot Spots for Germs.” Everyday Health Media. 2013. http://www.everydayhealth.com/cold-and-flu-pictures/10-hot-spots-for-germs.aspx#/slide-9. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
6. “Clean Hands Save Lives.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. January 11, 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
7. “Treating Flu Symptoms at Home.” WebMD. October 27, 2011. http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/home-remedies-9/slideshow-flu-foods. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
8. “12 Natural Treatment Tips for Colds and Flu.” WebMD. June 11, 2012. http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/12-tips-prevent-colds-flu-1. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
9. “Seasonal Influenza: Stopping the Spread of Germs at Home, Work & School.” January 10, 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/stopgerms.htm. January 15, 2013.



Categories: Medicine

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2 replies

  1. Here is a question for my blog community:

    What are you doing to stay healthy in this flu season? Thanks in advance for your comments.

  2. quite interesting, heard it before but still interesting.

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