As the weather continues to dip and germs are spread throughout school and work places, avoiding the flu is a high priority. On average, the flu puts about 200,000 people in the hospital each year, killing roughly 36,000. Although the flu vaccination only covers certain strains each year, it is still highly recommended for babies, kids, pregnant women, elderly people, and those with respiratory illnesses. Reducing your chance of the flu is easy to do.

  • Make sure you get your flu shot – as stated above, the flu shot is recommended each year. It builds your immune system to fight against the flu if you come into contact with someone who has it. If you have a respiratory illness, it can cause further problems, as well as hospitalization or death.
  • Wash your hands – this is the easiest step to avoid getting the flu, colds, stomach bugs, etc. We touch our faces and mouths frequently without even thinking about it, so it’s important to wash the germs away as soon as you have the chance. If you are not near a sink, try keeping hand sanitizer on you. This makes it easy to kill germs if you can’t wash your hands.
  • Know the symptoms – make sure you have a thermometer in case you are feeling warm. The flu will hit out of nowhere and lay you up. It includes body aches, fatigue, fever, headache, cough, congestion and/or runny nose, chills and more. If you are experiencing these symptoms, contact your physician. They will run a rapid flu test and can prescribe Tamaflu to help with symptoms.
  • Make sure you are prepared – if you do come down with the flu, the best thing is to make sure you have all things needed to cope. This includes decongestants, cough medicines, pain relievers, teas, soups, vitamins, fluids, sanitizer and bleach wipes, and anything else to clean the house and help you feel better.
  • When you pick up medication to ease symptoms, check the labels. Find out the specific symptoms the medication covers and compare it with your symptoms. Try to get a medication that treats symptoms most closely related to yours. Sometimes medications have so many different ingredients that they can affect you more if you do not have all the symptoms.
  • Relax and sleep – don’t go to work if you are sick with the flu. The flu is very contagious and you don’t want to spread the germs. You also don’t want to push your body more than you should when sick. It may take longer to recover if are over exerting yourself. Stay home, sleep and drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Antibiotics are not for the flu – the flu and colds occur from viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics. Only bacterial infections can be cured with antibiotics. Viruses take time to go away and require rest and fluids.
  • Anti-viral meds – if caught early enough (within 48 hours), anti-viral medications can help ease flu symptoms. Talk with your physician about these medications and if they are right for you.
  • Stay hydrated – drink extra fluids while you are sick to keep your body hydrated. This helps decrease mucus and clear your sinuses. Gatorade, Powerade, broth, water, teas and more help keep you hydrated. Popsicles also help keep kids hydrated if they do not want to drink anything. Try to avoid alcohol while sick.
  • Home remedies – it’s always nice to not have to leave the house when you’re sick. Home remedies come in handy when you’re too sick to leave. If you have honey, try a teaspoon to help sooth your cough. Vitamin C and probiotics are also said to help with flu symptoms. Keeping oranges and/or Emergen-C in the house are great for when you’re sick.
  • Try using replaceable things in your house while sick – throw away or boil your toothbrush; wash towels, sheets and blankets in hot water; use paper cups that can be tossed after use; use paper towels that can be simply thrown away rather than spreading germs on cloth towels.

The flu is a very contagious virus that knocks you down, and can sometimes lead to death. The easiest way to avoid the flu is by getting the vaccine and washing your hands. If you experience any flu symptoms, contact your physician, especially if you have respiratory illnesses. You do not have to suffer from the flu!