The flu is the bane of many a winter. Luckily there are some effective steps you can take to avoid the pesky bug and the unwelcome aches, pains, fever, and chills that come with it.
Shot of it
Flu shots really work. They can result in a 70 per cent reduction in hospitalisation rates for flu.
The 2016 flu vaccine is now available across Australia. This year for the first time, the National Immunisation Program is using a powerful new 'quadrivalent' vaccine that protects against four strains of the virus.
The Department of Health recommends the flu vaccine for everyone over six months of age, and it’s free for people in some high-risk groups such as those aged 65 and over.
To get your flu shot, visit your doctor or other immunisation provider such as a pharmacy (although the vaccine is free for some, a consultation fee may still apply).
Keep your distance
Stay away from sick people! The flu spreads mainly by tiny water droplets formed when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These flying flu bombs can infect people up to 2m away.
Symptoms usually start one to four days after the virus enters the body. Flu patients can become infectious the day before they first feel ill, and remain so for up to a week after becoming sick – or even longer in children.
Wash and wipe
Another common way of catching the flu is by touching an infected surface such as a handrail, doorknob or lift button.
Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Personal items such as phones and eating utensils used by those who are sick should not be shared without being thoroughly cleaned first.
Try to ensure all frequently touched surfaces at home, work and school are regularly cleaned and disinfected, especially if someone is ill.
And as much as possible, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth during flu season. They give viruses an easy shortcut straight past your body’s first lines of defence.
It’s a cruel irony that the healthier you are to start with, the less likely you are to get sick. Keep your immune system in good running order by ensuring you get plenty of sleep, staying physically active, managing your stress levels, keeping up your fluid intake and eating a well-balanced diet of nutritious foods.
Many people swear by the beneficial effects of natural supplements such as vitamin C, zinc and echinacea, and superfoods such as garlic, turmeric and leafy greens including kale to help in fighting off flu and other diseases. Fun fact: 100g of red capsicum gives you 306% of your daily intake of vitamin C!
Think of others
Nobody wants to get the flu, and we don’t want to spread it either. Try as hard as possible to stay home if you’re sick. Avoid visiting public places such as supermarkets, offices and schools.
If you need food or medicines, perhaps ask someone healthy to pick them up for you rather than going out yourself. Try not to sneeze around others without covering your face, and don’t share personal items without disinfecting them first.
Try to stick to the above and you’ll hopefully find yourself flu free this winter!