It can lead to serious illness such as pneumonia, and in some people, it may even cause death. Even if it does not reach such severe levels, the flu can make an entire family ill, resulting in lost time and money at work, or for kids and college students, it could mean a loss of time spent in school. The best thing that anyone can do is to prevent the spread of the flu. Fortunately, there are basic, simple steps that people can take to avoid getting sick or prevent spreading illness.
The first step to staying healthy during the flu season is to avoid getting the flu in the first place. This may seem like a near-impossible task when everyone from people at work to the people in grocery stores may be ill and unintentionally spreading the flu. One of the most important things that a person can do to avoid getting the flu is to be mindful of their hands. Nearly anything that a person touches, like doorknobs, shared keyboards, and grocery carts, could possibly been coughed on or touched by a person who has the flu. This means that the germs on the object may transfer to the hands that touch it if the object has not been disinfected. If that happens, a person can get the flu by touching their face or by failing to wash their hands. Regular hand-washing is important, particularly after being out in public or touching other people, even if they appear to be healthy, and before eating. In addition to keeping the hands clean, a person can also reduce the chances of getting sick by keeping their hands off of their face. Disinfecting items that people regularly touch is also important. Spray disinfectant or disinfecting wipes may be used to clean items such as doorknobs. Avoiding contact with people who have the flu is another common-sense way to avoid getting sick. Both eating healthy and getting enough sleep are important, as they help keep the immune system healthy.
Some people believe that the only truly dependable way to prevent getting the flu is to get a flu shot. Flu shots and whether a person should or should not get one are a topic of some debate and controversy. For older adults and people with certain health conditions, a flu shot is typically recommended due to the high risk of complications associated with getting the flu. The shot is not a guarantee that a person will not get ill, but it does cut the risk of illness by as much as 60 percent. The head of the CDC and other medical experts maintain that the vaccine is safe for adults and children who are six months old or older. People who have egg allergies, are sick and running a moderate to high fever, have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or had a previous reaction to a flu shot should not get the flu shot. There is also a heightened risk of Guillain-Barre Syndrome after getting the flu vaccine. People should also be aware of what the side effects are. Mild to moderate side effects include symptoms such as headaches, nausea, irritation at the injection site, runny nose, wheezing, fever, or a headache. Serious side effects include hives, racing heart rate, difficulty breathing, dizziness, behavioral changes, and a high fever. Severe reactions usually occur within minutes of having the shot and require the attention of a medical professional. Another aspect that some consider to be a negative strike against the vaccine is that it contains thimerosal. This is a preservative that is meant to hinder microbial growth and that contains an ingredient called ethylmercury. The multi-dose vials of the flu vaccine are the only vaccines that still use thimerosal.
How Not to Spread the Flu
Even the best attempts to stay healthy are not always successful. When people come down with the flu, it is important to do their part in helping to prevent its spread. The best thing for oneself and for others is to stay home and avoid contact with others. This means calling in sick from work, keeping kids home from school, etc. When around others, avoid coughing into the air or on a hand. Cough or sneeze into a tissue, making sure to cover both the mouth and nose, or cough/sneeze into the crook of one elbow to prevent the spray of germs. Hand-washing while sick is just as important as hand-washing prior to getting ill, as it also prevents the spread of germs via commonly touched items. Even though a person already has the flu, they should also make every effort to keep their hands away from their face and not rub their eyes or touch their mouth or nose. Wash both hands after using a tissue or if the hands come into contact with the face. Whenever possible, avoid touching others. If greeting someone, avoid handshakes or kisses. Phones, computer keyboards, and other commonly used work items should be properly disinfected or wiped down before being used by other employees. Any tissue used should also be properly disposed of in the garbage and never left laying around.
- Skip Getting Sick in Three Steps
- 30-Day Cold and Flu Prevention Calendar
- Staying Healthy During Flu Season (PDF)
- Ten Ways to Stay Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
- Good Habits to Keep You Healthy
- Five Tips on How to Stay Healthy During the Flu Season
- Eating Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
- How to Stop the Flu
- Tips for Staying Healthy in Flu Season
- Vaccination and Vaccine Safety
- Keep Your Family Healthy During Flu Season (PDF)
- Spreading Flu: Do You Know the Rules?
- The Flu and You: Help Stop the Spread (PDF)
- Preventing Spread of Influenza
- Stop the Spread of Flu
- Reducing the Spread of the Flu
- Preventing Flu at Work (PDF)
- Help Stop the Spread at Work
- Stop the Spread of Germs at Work
- What to Do if You Get Sick