‘Tis the season for holiday greetings, mall Santas, and getting together with family and friends. While all of these are wonderful, the winter season often features something not-so-wonderful: symptoms of coughing, sneezing, sniffling, headaches, and fevers. Unfortunately, cold and flu season is upon us. We want all of our patients to stay healthy, so here are our best tips for staying healthy this winter and beyond.
Get a Flu Shot
If you are able to safely get a flu shot (your doctor will be able to tell you if it’s right for you or if you should skip it), please strongly consider doing so! The influenza vaccine can protect you, your family, and members of the community from an illness that kills approximately 36,000 Americans every year. It’s recommended for almost everyone over the age of 6 months, and even during the seasons when it’s not a perfect match for the viruses circulating in your area, it can reduce your chances of being hospitalized with the flu. Note that the flu shot can’t give you the flu; it might make you achy and give you a fever for a day, but you won’t be contagious or at risk for the complications that influenza can cause.
Wash Your Hands
Following the flu shot, the most important and effective way to stop the spread of illness is simple handwashing. Make it a habit to lather up after getting home from being out and about, before preparing food, and, of course, after using the restroom. If you work with the public, wash more frequently; you might also consider using an antibacterial gel for times when you can’t access a sink for a full wash.
If you notice that you’re getting sick, stay home if at all possible. Preventing the spread of colds and the flu through the community does everyone else a favor. Cough into your sleeve or a tissue, wash your hands often, and don’t share utensils, glasses, or towels when you’re sick. If you can’t stay home, at least minimize your interactions with others, particularly those who are under the age of 5, elderly, or immunocompromised.
Keep Up With Your Healthy Habits
One final way to keep yourself healthy is to follow the rules of a healthy lifestyle. Don’t smoke, exercise daily, get outside each day for fresh air, get enough sleep, and eat healthy foods. These will all help you stay healthy all year long and are especially important during cold and flu season.