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Preventing the flu: What you need to know

February 1, 2023
6 minutes
Personal Health
Common illnesses

Flu season typically peaks in February. If you spend time around other people, like working in close proximity to others or riding on crowded buses, chances are you’re likely to get it. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from catching the flu.

Here are some tips to help prevent catching the flu.

Influenza, more commonly referred to as the flu, is a viral respiratory infection that causes mild to severe symptoms. When you have the flu, you can expect headaches, sore throat, runny nose, and generalized body aches. Most people experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover within a week. But for some, especially those who are very young, older, or with underlying conditions that put them at higher risk, flu can be very dangerous. 

Get Vaccinated To Prevent Catching The Flu

Vaccines are a controversial topic for many people, especially after the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the drive to get COVID vaccines marred by anti-vaccine protests. But there’s a substantial amount of research on the safety of flu vaccines. And research indicates getting vaccinated is the safest and most reliable preventive measure you can take against getting the flu. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most people should be vaccinated yearly, especially those at a greater risk of developing complications from the flu. If you’re over 65 years or suffer from chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, or cardiovascular illness, getting vaccinated should be a priority for you.

Avoid Large Crowds If You Can And Practice Good Hygiene

It may be unavoidable to avoid crowds. You have to work to survive, which means getting out and about among people. The flu spreads easily in crowded spaces like public transport, confined offices, schools, and even shopping malls. Try to limit the time you spend in those crowded spaces as much as possible during the peak months (from December to February) to avoid catching the flu.

The flu virus spreads person to person. 

You can get infected by being in close contact with an infected person, like hugging or spending time with them. The virus spreads through droplets the infected person breathes out during coughing, sneezing, or talking and lingers in the air you breathe before falling to the ground or the nearest horizontal surface. It can also spread through infectious particles that land on inanimate objects and surfaces in your environment. If you touch a contaminated surface, the virus can transfer to your hands, and if you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, the virus can enter your body. 

To prevent getting infected by the flu virus lurking in your environment, wash or sanitize your hands often, and avoid touching your face.

Always sanitize your hands after touching surfaces in public areas like door handles, handrails, and counters or after using public transport. COVID-19 has taught us to always carry a small bottle of sanitizer with us whenever we leave the house, and it can now be used to help prevent flu.

Wash your hands often throughout the day to reduce the number of flu and other pathogens present on your skin. Good hand hygiene practices go a long way to preventing flu and other diseases. Always wash your hands after using the toilet, before preparing or eating food, and after blowing your nose. 

How To Prevent The Flu With A Strong Immune System

A strong immune system helps you fight illness-causing germs before they invade your body cells and multiply, triggering symptoms to develop.

To ensure that your immune system can fight off the flu virus and turn your body into a flu-prevention machine, try to follow a healthy lifestyle to ensure your body is as strong as it can be. 

A healthy lifestyle includes things like:

  • Getting enough sleep. A great night’s sleep makes you feel better and helps your body fight off infections. General guidelines recommend that adults should sleep 7-9 hours each night.
  • Eating a well-balanced diet. A diet that includes multiple healthy food groups, like lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, is extremely beneficial to building a strong immune system. And don’t forget to stay hydrated. For healthy individuals, the recommendation is at least 8 glasses of water a day to help your kidneys flush out all toxins and keep you healthy. If you have kidney disease or other health factors that limit how much water you’re able to drink each day, talk to your healthcare provider to help you determine how much water is right for you.
  • Taking time to exercise. Exercise helps reduce weight, keep your muscles strong, and increases your resistance to infections. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes at least three times a week or do any other brisk activity that raises your heart rate. As always, seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or increasing your exercise routine, especially if you have underlying health conditions.
  • Relaxing. Reducing stress is super important to maintaining a healthy immune system. You can use meditation and deep breathing to get rid of stress. Or take up a hobby that makes you feel happy when you’re doing it. Even a relaxing bath after getting home from work can be sufficient to relax and unwind. High-stress levels can lead to a weakened immune system and a higher likelihood of contracting flu virus.
  • Take vitamin supplements. Taking supplements is not a replacement for following a healthy diet but can offer an additional boost to your immune system. You can take supplements containing zinc, Vit D, and Vit C to help protect yourself from the flu. Be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist first if you’re on prescription medications to make sure there are no contraindications before starting any new supplements.

Include More Fiber In Your Diet For Flu Prevention

As weird as it may sound, adding more insoluble fiber to your diet may help protect you from severe flu complications this year.

Dietary fiber has been known to protect against allergic airway inflammation. Since the virus often attacks human airways, and one of the most serious complications of flu is pneumonia, it may be possible that adding insoluble fiber to your diet, especially during the flu season, may add some protection against some of the severe complications of the flu.

A study done on mice at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2018 has shown a clear link. According to the study’s findings, eating more insoluble fiber produces a potential protective effect against flu pathology. In the study, two sets of mice were observed after exposure to the Influenza A virus. One set of mice was fed a low-fiber diet, while the others received a high-fiber diet. The mice who received the high-fiber diet exhibited milder flu symptoms and better lung function. Researchers concluded that the high-fiber-fed mice were better protected against influenza-induced tissue destruction and lethality.

Try adding more high-fiber foods like cauliflower, beans, and nuts to your diet this flu season. Another small diet change you could consider is swapping that white flour bagel for a slice of whole wheat toast.

To Summarize

You can protect yourself and others by actively taking flu prevention measures. By getting vaccinated, staying home more often during the height of the flu season, following a healthy lifestyle to support your immune system, and remembering to wash your hands regularly, you can help stop the spread of flu.

FluSmart on Evidation

For more tips on staying healthy this flu season, and to stay up to date on flu rates in your area, download the Evidation app and join the FluSmart program.

More about FluSmart:

  • FluSmart is a program that looks for changes in your activity data from wearable devices and alerts you when a change suggests you may be feeling under the weather.
  • The goal is to understand whether changes in activity patterns can identify symptoms of influenza-like illness, but you can also report symptoms even if you don’t have a wearable device.
  • You may also be eligible to participate in health research. You can opt out of the program at any time.
Common illnesses
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