The 2012-2013 flu season has so far been the worst flu season on record in a decade. As stated in our previous article: Should I REALLY Get a Flu Shot? What You Need to Know, the number one thing you can do to protect yourself against the flu is to get the vaccine.
But there are plenty of natural, cost effective, and simple things you can do to help protect yourself and your family against this nasty bug.
Here are a few tips on what you can do to prevent yourself from getting the flu:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you for in-between hand washes.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth as this spreads germs.
- Obviously, try your best to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Dress appropriately for the weather – Most doctors agree that there is little evidence that bad weather can make you sick, but it is believed that getting a chill and wet socks can lower your immunity; lowering your resistance to bugs.
- Don’t share! (utensils, plates, glasses, etc.) anything that comes in contact with your mouth. Wash dishes and utensils with hot water and soap.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet – A healthy diet means a healthy immune system. Check out the Astone fitness Nutrition Guide for great tips on eating right.
- Exercise 3-4 times a week.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
- Quit Smoking – Studies show that smokers get the flu more often, and usually more severely than non-smokers.
Keep nasal passages moisturized with saline nasal drops, sprays, or gels – Studies show that you are 23 times more likely to get sick when on a plane due to the low humidity in the aircraft. Low humidity dries out mucus in your nose, weakening it’s ability to trap germs and prevent them for entering the body.
Debunking Myths- Surgical masks:
Many people are starting to wear surgical masks as a way of preventing the spread of germs. But according to a study from Wake Forest University School of Medicine where they sprayed 28 mask-wearing volunteers with live flu virus, all of the volunteers became sick. The problem is that masks leak from the sides, allowing the virus to still enter.
Natural Flu Remedies
- Drink plenty of water. Add lemon or lime for an added Vitamin C boost.
- Add Kiwi, oranges, red bell peppers, grapefruit, fresh garlic and fresh ginger to your diet for added vitamin and germ-busting benefits.
- Eat honey. Research suggests that honey may reduce the risk of flu by flushing bacteria out of the body. A clinical trial found that eating two teaspoons of honey every evening may be more effective at preventing, and treating night-time cough than taking dextromethorphan (a cough medicine ingredient in most conventional over-the-counter cough products). Honey contains a compound that can be converted into a small amount of hydrogen peroxide and that, along with other antimicrobial compounds, may prevent or at least improve recovery from infection.
- Do Saline Nasal Rinses. Ya, I know, not fun. But it does help in preventing and treating colds and flu. If you just can’t handle the rinse, a saline spray in a lot less messy with still a lot of benefits.
- Take your Vitamins. Vitamins and supplements go a long way in preventing illness. North American ginseng, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D have been proven to boost immune cells and help the body fight cold, flu and respiratory track infections.
If You ARE Sick
- If you feel yourself coming down with something (especially if you are, or in contact with those who can get flu related complications) see your doctor about taking an antiviral medication. Antiviral meds are not antibiotics but a prescribed drug that is up to 90% effective at preventing the flu. Antiviral drugs work best within the first 2 days of getting sick, so the sooner you start them the better. Antiviral drug treatment can mean the difference between getting a mild cold as oppose to a severe flu.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow. Not your hands.
- Immediately throw away used tissues. Empty trash regularly.
- Gargle with warm, salted water. The salt will help clean the virus from the back of your throat, and sooth sore throat.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects (i.e. countertops, doorknobs, remotes, light switches, phones) with ½ cup of chlorine bleach in a gallon of water. Many viruses are resilient to typical household cleaners and can live on almost any hard surface for weeks. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says bleach is one of the few substances available that will kill the viruses. If possible wash sheets, towels, and clothes in hot water and bleach as well.
- PROTECT OTHERS BY STAYING HOME! If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is naturally gone. (without the aid of fever-reducing medication)
The flu is no joke and can be serious, even deadly – especially for anyone with a health condition or a weakened immune system. The flu is contagious for up to a week after you get sick, so if you are sick be considerate and keep your germs to yourself.