With its crisp air, gorgeous colors and long shadows, fall is a favorite season for many. Each year, however, the coming of fall also indicates the arrival of flu season, which—as anyone who has had the flu knows—can ruin an otherwise beautiful time of year. Influenza infection sends over 200,000 people to the hospital annually, and is fatal for an astonishing 3,000-49,000 depending upon the severity of the flu season. At the very least, it can knock you out of work for up to a week, with cough and fatigue often lingering for two-three weeks after the illness has subsided.
While flu season can’t be avoided, the flu itself can with the right approach. Be sure to use the following checklist as a guide, and remember—no one is immune to the flu virus (luck doesn’t count).
▢ Get a Flu Shot
Despite common mythology, the fear that a flu shot can actually give you the flu is nothing more than an urban legend. The shot itself is comprised of viruses that are no longer alive, which means while it can vaccinate, it cannot actually give someone the illness. The flu vaccine changes in composition each year to keep up with the latest shifts in strains present throughout the world and is considered to be 40-60% effective. As most people experience no side effects, it’s one of the best frontline offenses against getting the flu and should not be overlooked.
▢ Wash Your Hands
When it comes to reducing the spread of germs, there’s simply no better option than to wash your hands thoroughly and often. The CDC recommends scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds after lathering with soap, being sure to focus on areas between fingers and under fingernails. When in doubt, wash your hands!
▢ Eat a Healthy Diet
Malnutrition and illness are linked at the hip, and once cold season comes along, it becomes clear for many how diet and affect the immune system. Eating a healthy diet isn’t a surefire defense against getting the flu this fall and winter, but it can certainly help to boost your body’s natural defenses should you come in contact with the virus. Add a restful night’s sleep, and you’ll be ready to go.
▢ Read Your Surroundings
As flu season plays out, it can be helpful to stay aware of your surroundings to avoid coming into contact with someone who is sick. Flu symptoms can vary from person to person, but many constants are actually noticeable in plain view—coughing, watery eyes, etc. If you encounter in public someone who you believe has the flu (or hear complaints from a friend or coworker), be sure to keep your distance to reduce your chances of picking it up yourself.
So don’t live in fear of the flu this fall and winter—get prepared! Your immune system will thank you for putting in the effort.