In the United States, flu season typically begins in October and extends through early Spring. But while the season normally peaks during the winter months, the influenza virus isn’t confined to any specific range of dates or to any particular kind of victim (although children under the age of 18 years are more widely affected according to statistics). Nevertheless, the start of a new school year, along with decreasing temperatures, frequently serve as harbingers of contagious disease. Perhaps it’s because when we are crowded into classrooms we are exposed to more germs. Or maybe it’s because our immune systems are weakened when sunlight (and the vitamin D that comes along with it) are scarce. Indeed, vitamin D has been shown to protect against infection, making it more likely that those of us who have less of it get sick faster and more easily. Whatever the case, it’s never a bad idea to be prepared. You wouldn’t just hope to pass a midterm without studying your notes or start the E2 visa application process without knowing relevant eligibility requirements. Why gamble on your health? A little upfront information can help you survive flu season…whenever it strikes!
Get the Flu Shot!
Even though influenza is a master of change, quickly mutating from one version to another when obstacles arise, a flu shot is the greatest single weapon we have for preventing the most anticipated flu strains each year. Even if you end up catching the flu after you’ve had the flu vaccine, you probably won’t get as sick and will be protected from serious complications.
Wash Your Hands (and Clean Communal Surfaces)
Good daily hygiene goes a long way toward staving off disease. Influenza viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours, in the air for multiple hours, on soft surfaces for 15 minutes and on hands for approximately 5 minutes. Thus, it’s important to wash your hands regularly (and quickly) after touching anything that others have also touched. It’s also critical that you disinfect hard surfaces that get routinely used throughout the day (like door knobs, telephones, faucets, light switches and remotes).
Many people prefer a personal space bubble. Become one of them, especially during flu season. Flu viruses are often spread via small droplets that are expelled when infected people cough and sneeze. If you maintain several feet between yourself and others, you can limit your exposure to them.
Get Some Sleep
And by “some,” we mean “enough.” Our immune systems function better when we are well-rested.
Stay in Shape
Similarly, our immune systems function better when we eat the right foods, exercise regularly and regulate other health concerns (such as asthma, allergies and anxiety). By maximizing our own defense systems, we can help protect ourselves from all invading viruses (including the flu).
Research shows that people who smoke are more likely to become infected by and get seriously ill from viruses. They also have a higher chance of dying from their infection since long-term exposure to smoke damages the lungs and provides an easy target for opportunistic germs looking for their next host.