Those of us who get the flu this year will undoubtedly wish we had done more to prevent it. So how can you protect yourself?
First of all, get plenty of rest. Otherwise, your immune system won't function optimally. If you feel exhausted, listen to your body and get more sleep. Most adults require at least seven hours of sleep in order to keep their immune systems as strong as possible.
And remember, even though a nightcap might make you feel all warm and cozy on a cold night, excessive drinking dehydrates your body, rendering it more susceptible to flu. Instead of alcohol, try a warm cup of green tea, which can reduce harmful stress, fortify cardiovascular health and provide a power boost to our immune system's T-cells.
Speaking of heart health, a good cardiovascular workout should be a regular part of your routine, especially during flu season. This kind of exercise naturally strengthens your immune system.
The flu spreads easily through hand contact with the face, eyes, nose and mouth. Simply touching a doorknob can contaminate your hand with the flu virus. Wash your hands regularly, but also keep your hands away from your face. Now would be a good time to quit biting your nails, for example. If your eye itches, try to rub it with your shoulder.
Be especially cautious in crowds or classic flu-spreading situations. Child daycare, church, sporting events, concerts and airplanes all warrant extra precaution. Wherever children congregate in large numbers, the flu is there too; kids generally don't wash their hands before rubbing their faces. Now is a great time to teach your children about the importance of hand-washing.
Now is also a great time to get a flu vaccine. They're cheap and widely available. The flu vaccine isn't 100 percent effective since it takes a long time to manufacture, and it isn't easy to predict the strains that will spread rapidly in our country. In 2007, for example, the flu shot was only about 44 percent effective. Nevertheless, the flu vaccine is strongly recommended for the old and young, and just about everyone in-between. Kids, pregnant women, healthy adults, people over 50, healthcare workers and teachers, those with AIDS, young adults with chronic illnesses - all are advised to get a flu vaccine. Even kids as young as 6 months should get it this year (kids ages 6 months to 8 years should get two shots a month apart). Consult your doctor if you have questions about your eligibility.
Prevention is the best strategy for dealing with the flu every year. Take care of your body, keep your hands clean and get the flu vaccine - you can emerge unscathed from this flu season.