While a cold or the flu can strike at any time of the year, most people fall victim to these viruses during the fall and winter months, with cases peaking between December and February. Any virus can cause serious health complications, but the flu is especially dangerous– especially for children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Last year alone, almost 80,000 Americans died from flu-related complications, and over 900,000 were hospitalized. The good news is, there are ways to prevent colds and the flu viruses from infiltrating your immune system with the flu vaccination leading them all. Read on for some helpful tips to stay healthy, as well as information about why the flu shot could save your life.
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Wash your hands
According to the CDC, washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent the spread of germs from person-to-person. If soap and water aren’t readily available, a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol content is also acceptable.
30 minutes of exercise, three to four times a week has been proven to have an immune-boosting effect when it comes to preventing illness. It increases blood flow and circulation and lowers stress, allowing the body to fight off infections more effectively.
Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system and puts you at risk for infections and viruses. While most people don’t meet the daily recommendation for sleep, allowing your body to rest so it can ward off illness should be a priority.
When your body is hydrated, immune responses are stronger, and you are better able to fight illness. Water is the best choice when it comes to hydration, but any non-caffeinated liquid will contribute to your daily recommendation of fluid intake.
Germs and bacteria can survive on surfaces outside of the human body for up to 7 days. By disinfecting surfaces with a wipe or spray, you’ll greatly reduce the spread of germs between family members, office mates or even your fellow gym-goers. Since germs can also embed themselves in fabric fibers, switch to disposable paper towels when someone in your household is sick.
Stress has a tremendous negative impact on the human immune system. When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which has been proven to stifle immunity. During periods of high stress, try meditation or deep breathing to reduce the “fight or flight” response that puts you at greater risk for illness.
Get a flu shot
The number one way to prevent the flu virus is by getting a flu vaccination. The CDC recommends a vaccine for everyone over six months or older. It has been proven to reduce the risk of contracting the flu by as much as 60%.
With the accessibility, safety, and effectiveness of flu shots today, no one should let misconceptions or expense stand in the way of protecting their health. There are a few commonly-asked questions about getting a flu shot to know before you get your vaccine.
Will a flu shot give me the flu?
A common myth about the flu shot is that it will make you sick. This is simply not true. The flu vaccination is formulated from either an inactive virus or a single-gene virus, neither of which transmit an active flu virus to the recipient.
Where can I get a flu shot?
It has never been more convenient to get a flu shot. They are not only offered in traditional settings, like a doctor’s office or urgent care, but also through many employers at little to no cost to employees. Colleges, supermarkets, and pharmacies have also started offering flu shots on-site to make it even easier for people of all ages to get vaccinated.
Will insurance pay for my flu shot?
If you have health insurance, either through an employer-provided plan, a health marketplace or government-subsidized plan, your flu shot will likely be covered at no cost to you. Likewise, if your employer holds a flu shot clinic, you may not have to pay anything to get vaccinated, since flu shots are considered preventative care and save companies millions of dollars a year in productivity lost when employees are off work from colds and the flu.
While there are many ways to prevent and treat colds and the flu, prevention is the best plan of attack. Don’t wait until flu season is in full swing– get your flu shot today to help ensure your good health all winter long.