How to protect yourself from the flu
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by various strains of the influenza virus. Though the strains change from year to year, the all-too-familiar symptoms typically remain the same. They include high fever, headache, tiredness, sore throat, runny nose and muscle aches. Though the flu is typically mild and treatable at home, it does have the potential to escalate to something that is life-threatening. Here are a few simple measures for staying healthy and protecting yourself from the flu this season.
Get a flu shot
Seasonal influenza vaccines provide the best protection from the flu, even when the vaccine doesn't completely match the currently circulating flu strains. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone older than 6 months get a yearly flu shot.
Go to bed early
Get plenty of sleep to restore your energy each day, giving your body a fighting chance against germs.
More about the benefits of a good night's sleep >>
Regular exercise will help keep you strong and healthy all year long. As a bonus, it may cut your risk of getting the flu and help your body respond better to a flu shot.
More about following an exercise prescription >>
Take a yoga class
Managing your stress will help keep your mind and body in a better place. In fact, minimizing stress and your reactions to it is a key defense against disease.
Drink plenty of fluids & load up on fresh foods
Eating nutrient-packed fruits and veggies and keeping hydrated are smart practices year-round but are especially important during flu season. Antioxidants and essential vitamins such as A and C keep your immune system at peak performance. Take a multivitamin daily for a little immunity insurance.
Get your zinc on
Your body needs zinc for its immune system to function properly, and zinc nasal sprays may even help reduce stuffiness. Make sure that you are getting enough to keep yourself well, but don't take more than 50 mg per day.
A few more benefits of zinc >>
Here's another reason to put the pack in the past: Smokers get the flu more often -- and with more severity -- than non-smokers. Quit today for overall improved health and added protection against the flu.
The American Cancer Society's guide to quitting smoking >>
Make a few extra trips to the ladies' room
Washing your hands often with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner is another easy, smart habit that will help defend your body against the flu. Additionally, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Keep your up-close-and-personal exchanges to people who are in good health. By avoiding close contact with sick people, you are also avoiding contact with any contagious virus that they may be packing.