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How to Prevent the Flu

Tightly clutching a box of tissues, you may receive temporary relief from the chicken noodle soup, nasal spray, and cough drops that often work against the aches and pains of influenza (better known as “the flu”). Today, it’s hard to believe an influenza outbreak in 1918 took the lives of millions of people, including 500,000 Americans, but at the present time, the flu is still a powerful condition with complications that kill as many as 36,000 Americans each year [1]. Additionally, more than 200,000 are hospitalized because of the flu. Nowadays, arming oneself with the knowledge of prevention is the best way to avoid influenza.

How to Prevent the Flu

What is the Flu?

Influenza is a viral infection that mainly strikes the respiratory system, meaning your nose, bronchial tubes, lungs, and throat will suffer a wide-range of signs and symptoms. Many people find it hard to distinguish between the common cold and the flu, but influenza brings so much more than just a runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat. While the cold may take a couple of days to fully affect the body, the flu may come crashing down onto the system in a sudden rush of fever, chills, sweats, and muscle aches and pain.

The flu also brings on a dry cough, headache, fatigue, weakness, nasal congestion, and loss of appetite. While adults rarely experience a bout of diarrhea and vomiting with the flu, these symptoms are more common in children, who also experience higher fevers than adults. While an older victim of the flu reaches a fever over 101 degrees, a child may suffer from fevers that climb to 103- to 105-degrees.

The Negative Effects of the Flu

The young and healthy rarely have to worry about a case of the flu posing a serious threat to their health. As the infection runs its course, it is a particularly uncomfortable and draining process, but the misery of sickness soon passes, leaving behind no lasting effects.

However, high-risk children and adults (especially those with a weakened immune system) may suffer complications that include painful ear infections, acute sinusitis, bronchitis, or worse – pneumonia. The most serious of the complications is pneumococcal pneumonia, which is responsible for a bacterial infection in the lungs that can prove deadly to older patients and people dealing with a chronic illness.

Since the flu requires some level of recuperation, a child may miss school or an adult may need to take time off from work. During the flu season, productivity decreases in the workplace, especially when one employee has unknowingly affected the rest of their co-workers with the infection. The flu can be extremely contagious. Overall, the infection prevents individuals from completing the things they need to do and wish to accomplish on a daily basis.

Flu Risk Factors

Anyone can fall victim to the symptoms associated with the flu, but there are some, who carry a higher risk of getting the infection and suffering complications. Usually, young children, infants, and the elderly face an increased chance of catching influenza, especially when the following risk factors are involved:

a) Age:

Adults who are 50 years or older, as well as children between the ages of six months and five are considered high risk cases for the flu [2].

b) Chronic Disorders:

A higher risk of flu affects people who suffer from a chronic disease, such as kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, sickle cell anemia, or lung disease.

c) Weakened Immune System:

The immune system becomes weak when an individual suffers from a chronic disease or takes medications that lessen their natural defense against infection and sickness (such as immune-suppressing drugs). Often, HIV-infected and AIDS patients face a higher risk to flu because of their damaged immune systems.

d) Healthcare Residents and Caretakers:

Residents of a nursing home or any other facility that provides long-term care places individuals at a higher risk for the flu. Those who work in the healthcare profession or provide homecare for someone considered “high risk” for the flu is more likely to come in contact with the flu through their heightened exposure to the infection. Daycare workers, who work closely with infants and young children, are also at a high risk.

e) Pregnancy:

Pregnancy increases the risk of the flu and usually affects women entering their second or third trimester of pregnancy while during the flu season [3].

How to Prevent the Flu

While the best protection against the flu is to receive the vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza, there are plenty of prevention methods to consider, especially since the shot does not offer 100% protection against the infection. While your chances of developing the flu is reduced by a vaccination, the following flu prevention techniques are suggested (especially when the flu season is fast approaching):

a) Annual Flu Vaccination:

There are two different ways that a patient may receive the flu vaccination. The first approach is the commonly used method of administering a shot. The second method involves a nasal spray called FluMist, which caters to healthy individuals between the ages of 5 and 49. Both methods are administered once a year.

Flu vaccinations are also best given in October or November to allow the body enough time to develop antibodies before the peak flu season arrives. Depending on where you live, flu vaccines are now available at the doctor’ s office, public health clinic, many pharmacies, senior or community centers, and at some grocery stores [4].

b) Antiviral Medications:

There are four antiviral medications (amantadine, oseltamivir, rimantadine, and zanamivir) that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for treatment of flu that have also been approved to prevent influenza as well. With a prescription, most healthy adults are often able to enjoy around 70% to 90% effectiveness when trying to prevent the flu [5].

c) Hand Washing:

It may seem like a simple thing to abide by, but you’d be surprised how many people rush out of the bathroom without washing their hands. During flu season, careful and repeated hand washing is a great way to prevent the spread of common infections, including the flu. Proper procedure usually involves the scrubbing of hands for at least 15 seconds, followed by a thorough rinse. Before leaving the restroom, using a paper towel to turn off the faucet is suggested, which further decreases the spread of germs.

d) Eat Healthy:

Individuals better prevent the flu infection when they follow a well-balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and a small amount of lean protein. It is also suggested to drink plenty of fluids. In regards to the flu, yogurt especially aids the immune system, giving an extra boost through active cultures that help increase the amount of gamma interferons in the body. This is one of the ways the body is able to better fight against viral infections, such as the flu [6].

e) Supplements:

To strengthen the immune system and build up a resistance to viral infections, such as the flu, there are many different supplements one may include in their regular routine. A few suggestions include garlic (600 to 900mg capsules or tablets); ginseng (100 to 200mg capsules); goldenseal (200 to 500mg capsules); combination of 100 mcg selenium and 20 mg of zinc tablets; and vitamin C (500 to 1,000 capsules or tablets – divided into two to four doses) [7].

f) Sleep Well:

A good night’s sleep helps keep the immune system in tip-top shape. Overall, adults are encouraged to get seven to eight hours each night, while older children and teenagers benefit most from nine to 10 hours of sleep. Healthy sleep habits help keep the flu infection at bay by strengthening immunity.

g) Regular Exercise:

Sometimes, routine exercise will prevent a flu infection by boosting the immune system through cardiovascular activity. Those who frequently exercise also suffer less-severe symptoms if they should contract the flu virus. Walking around the block, biking, and aerobics are great ways to increase the level of activity and exercise in your life.

h) Avoid Flu Season Air Travel:

Researchers have found that new flu strains surface in November, just as people are flying to meet relatives for the Thanksgiving holiday. Some people are able to prevent catching the flu by avoiding air travel throughout the late fall season. The same goes for avoiding large crowds during the flu season, such as the ones that often form in daycare centers, schools, at the mall, cruise ships, spacious office buildings, and crowded supermarkets.

Resources

[1] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/influenza/DS00081
[2] http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm
[3] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/influenza/DS00081/DSECTION=8
[4] http://www.nfid.org/influenza/influenza_archive/acknowledgements/influenza.pdf
[5] http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/antiviral/
[6] Joey Green’s Amazing Kitchen Cures by Joey Green (pg. 151)
[7] Solve It With Supplements by Robert Schulman (pgs. 474-475)

One Response to “How to Prevent the Flu”

  1. sherwin albao
    October 4, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    clean your surroundings

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