By Eric M. Folkens, M.D., Family Medicine, Bradenton/Lakewood Ranch/Sarasota Urgent Care Walk-In Clinics
With cold and flu season quickly approaching, it is important to be reminded of simple tips that are well known but oftentimes overlooked. There are no known cures for colds and flu, so cold and flu prevention should be your goal. A proactive approach to warding off colds and flu is apt to make your whole life healthier. Antibiotics act only on bacteria, and flu is caused by a virus. So antibiotics do not work on a virus. Research has proven that the most effective way for preventing the flu is to get the flu shot. Even though it is highly recommended some people still choose not to get a flu shot. The following tips will help prevent you from getting the dreaded flu. Everyone should apply these strategies on a daily basis, especially if you chose not to receive a flu shot.
1. Wash Your Hands
Most cold and flu viruses are spread by direct contact. Someone who has the flu sneezes onto their hand, and then touches the telephone, the keyboard, a kitchen glass. The germs can live for hours — in some cases weeks — only to be picked up by the next person who touches the same object. So wash your hands often. If no sink is available, rub your hands together very hard for a minute or so. That also helps break up most of the cold germs. Or rub an alcohol-based hand sanitizer onto your hands.
2. Don’t Cover Your Sneezes and
Coughs With Your Hands
Because germs and viruses cling to your bare hands, muffling coughs and sneezes with your hands results in passing along your germs to others. When you feel a sneeze or cough coming, use a tissue, then throw it away immediately. If you don’t have a tissue, turn your head away from people near you and cough into the air.
3. Don’t Touch Your Face
Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Touching their faces is the major way children catch colds, and a key way they pass colds on to their parents.
4. Drink Plenty of Fluids
Water flushes your system, washing out the poisons as it rehydrates you. A typical, healthy adult needs 1.5 litres of fluids each day. How can you tell if you’re getting enough liquid? If the color of your urine runs close to clear, you’re getting enough. If it’s deep yellow, you need more fluids.
5. Do Aerobic Exercise Regularly
Aerobic exercise speeds up the heart to pump larger quantities of blood; makes you breathe faster to help transfer oxygen from your lungs to your blood; and makes you sweat once your body heats up. These exercises help increase the body’s natural virus-killing cells.
6. Oxidative stress – Don’t Smoke
Statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and more frequent ones.
Even being around smoke profoundly zaps the immune system. Smoke dries out your nasal passages and paralyzes cilia. These are the delicate hairs that line the mucous membranes in your nose and lungs, and with their wavy movements, sweep cold and flu viruses out of the nasal passages. Experts contend that one cigarette can paralyze cilia for as long as 30 to 40 minutes. Nicosolven Co-enzyme Q10 liquid capsules decrease oxidative stress if taken daily.
7. Cut Alcohol Consumption
Heavy alcohol use suppresses the immune system in a variety of ways. Heavier drinkers are more prone to initial infections as well as secondary complications. Alcohol also dehydrates the body — it actually takes more fluids from your system than it puts in.
If you can teach yourself to rest and relax, you can activate your immune system on demand. There’s evidence that when you put your relaxation skills into action, your interleukins — leaders in the immune system response against cold and flu viruses — increase in the bloodstream. Train yourself to picture an image you find pleasant or calming. Do this 30 minutes a day for several months. Keep in mind, relaxation is a learnable skill, but it is not doing nothing. People who try to relax, but are in fact bored, show no changes in blood chemicals.
9. Consider getting the flu vaccination
Whether or not you get a flu shot is a personal decision but information from the Centers For Disease Control and Protection recommend that certain groups of high-risk individuals receive a flu vaccination every year. Those people include:
• People who are 65 years old or older and anyone who lives in a nursing home
• People with chronic heart or lung conditions that are 6 months or older
• People with diabetes, chronic kidney disease, a compromised immune system, or anyone who needs regular medical care that is 6 months or older
• Children from 6 months to 18 years that are on long term aspirin therapy and all children who are 6 months to 23 months old
• Women who will be pregnant during the flu season
• People who routinely come in close contact with people in the high-risk group, such as health care professionals
• People with a condition that has the possibility of compromising their respiratory function such as a brain injury, brain disease, spinal cord injury, seizure disorders and other nerve or muscle disorders that make it difficult for a person to breathe or swallow
If you do get a flu shot the best time to receive it is from the latter part of September through the middle of November, although getting a flu shot almost any time during the season will still give a person some protection from the flu or influenza. But the flu shot doesn’t give a person protection or effectiveness against the flu for about two weeks after receiving it. And in order to receive the maximum protection from the flu a person needs to get a flu shot every year.
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