How to Protect Yourself from Seasonal Flu

Influenza is linked to about 36,000 fatalities in the United States each year. The economic impact of seasonal flu is also staggering, forcing more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year and costing companies millions of lost work hours. Children, senior citizens and people with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to the effects of influenza. While it is seldom the direct cause of death, the flu can aggravate chronic conditions, making some of them life-threatening. There are steps you can take to reduce your chances of coming down with the virus. If you want to learn how to protect yourself from seasonal flu, follow these guidelines.


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    Get the influenza vaccine. Each year, the CDC, World Health Organization and other public-health groups study the newest strains of influenza and quickly develop effective vaccines to protect people. CDC officials consider the flu shot to be the most effective barrier against becoming infected. The vaccine contains inactive viruses from the 3 strains researchers believe will be most prevalent during the flu season. The CDC encourages everyone to get immunized, particularly people in high-risk groups. If you fall into one of these categories, strongly consider getting the latest influenza vaccine.
    • Senior citizens aged 65 and older.
    • People with compromised immune systems, like diabetes, asthma, HIV/AIDS and cardiopulmonary disease.
    • Young children.
    • Pregnant women.
    • Health-care workers.
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    Take steps to protect yourself by practicing safe habits. By taking certain measures, you can greatly reduce your exposure to influenza. Some of the steps doctors suggest include:
    • Wash your hands frequently. Use soap and warm water and wash for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Avoid coming in close contact with people who are sick or using items they have used. The flu virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 2 hours. If you have to touch an item a sick person touched, wash your hands afterward.
    • Don't touch your eyes, mouth or nose during flu season. Germs enter your body at these sites.
    • Open doors with your forearms instead of your hands. Press elevator buttons with your knuckles instead of your fingertips.
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    Help your body ward off the flu. By getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet and drinking enough water, you'll help build your body's natural defenses to influenza and other viruses.
    • Sleep: A 2009 study showed that people who got less than 7 hours of sleep each night were 3 times more likely to catch a cold or the flu than people who got more than 8 hours per night. Ample sleep enables the body to fully recharge the immune system.
    • Drink: Proper hydration helps flush unwanted particles from your system and also keeps nasal passages moist, making them more resistant to viruses. Experts recommend 4 to 8 glasses of water per day.
    • Eat: A balanced diet provides a balanced attack against invading germs. Vitamin C is a natural immune-system booster found in oranges, broccoli and other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin D also has protective properties, but scientists aren't able to isolate precisely what they are. Several studies have shown that people with Vitamin D deficiency tend to suffer more infections.
    • Exercise: Experts suggest that moderate exercise, 3 or 4 times a week, helps increase the body's ability to fight infection.


  • Research suggests that in years when influenza A strains emerge as dominant seasonal flu, death rates double.
  • It takes about 2 weeks after immunization for your body to develop influenza antibodies.

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Categories: Colds and Viruses