Health News and Tips

Flu Protection Tips

Flu Protection Tips

What is the Flu?

The "flu" is the common term for a condition known as Influenza. It is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza A or B virus, and it is considered to be highly contagious. This seasonal virus primarily attacks and spreads throughout the upper or lower respiratory tract, and it often occurs in the winter and spring months. New strains of flu also evolve every couple of years, and since they are viral they cannot be treated with antibiotics.

The common cold is also a viral infection of the respiratory tract, and the symptoms of the cold and flu are often similar, but the reality is that the flu is much worse. The cold and flu both result in coughing, chest discomfort, and headaches. However, the cold is also often accompanied by congestion, a sore throat, and sometimes sneezing. The flu on the other hand can lead to a high fever that lasts for several days, as well as overall fatigue, weakness, and aches throughout the body. A flu can also lead to other life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia, while a cold very rarely leads to complications.

How does the flu spread?

Since it is a respiratory infection, the flu primarily spreads from person to person via respiratory secretions. This can occur by inhaling droplets in the air containing the flu virus, by sharing food or drinking utensils, or by handling items contaminated by an infected person. For this reason, large groups of people that spend lots of time in close contact can often cause mass outbreaks of the flu. Common places for flu outbreaks include day-care facilities, school classrooms, nursing homes, college dorms, and office environments. Flu symptoms usually start to develop within 1 to 4 days once the virus has been contracted.

Tips to Avoid Getting the Flu

Statistics show that roughly 1 in 5 people will catch the flu each season. Getting the flu means having to suffer at home for up to two weeks. For people with weakened immune systems or existing health conditions such as diabetes or asthma, it also means having to deal with the increased risk of more serious and life-threatening complications. To avoid having the flu knock you out, here are some simple tips and strategies that you can use to reduce your chances of being infected:


One of the best ways to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated once the seasonal vaccine becomes available. The best time to get the flu shot is in the early fall.

Health experts engineer the vaccine each season to protect against the flu strain that they believe will be the most prevalent that year. The flu vaccine contains a weakened or killed form of the virus, which allows your body to naturally develop immunity to it. While your arm may be sore the next day, and you may run a low fever or feel some minor aches, health experts claim that you cannot catch a full blown flu from the flu shot.

Wash Your Hands and Surfaces

You can catch the flu if an infected person is nearby and coughs or sneezes in your general direction. The coughing/sneezing releases droplets in the air that are infected with the virus, and you can contract the flu by simply breathing in those droplets via your nose or mouth.

You can also contract the flu virus by touching surfaces that have been previously touched by an infected individual. Flu germs can usually live for up to 8 hours on surfaces. The virus can then be transported into your body if you touch your mouth, eyes, or nose with your infected hands or fingers.

Since it is difficult to completely avoid people forever, especially in public places such as stores, malls, or at work, the best thing you can do is use good hygiene during flu season as follows:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water each time you touch a surface that may be covered in germs, or if you shake hands with an individual that may be sick.
  • Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you for situations when you won't be near a sink.
  • Use disinfectant wipes to clean surfaces that other people have previously touched, such as in an office environment or a gym.
  • Try to avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose without first washing your hands.
  • Don't share eating utensils, plates, or glasses without first washing them with soap and hot water.

Live Healthy

A strong immune system is your best defense for fighting off the flu. The following tips can help you stay healthy:

  • eat healthy and balanced meals
  • exercise at least 4 times per week
  • get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night

Stop Smoking

Recent studies have found that smokers tend to get the flu more often than nonsmokers. Smokers are also more susceptible to the life-threatening complications from a flu infection. Smoking also leads to other issues such as premature wrinkles or even cancer, so this is all the more reason to quit smoking!

Be Considerate

Even after taking the above precautions, it is still possible that you may come down with the flu this season. If you do, the best thing you can do is be considerate. Since the flu is contagious for up to 1 week after you get sick, try to stay home until you are better and your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours. It is also important to avoid spreading infected flu droplets in the air around you by sneezing into your elbow instead of your hand as usual.

If you get sick, you can also ask your doctor about antiviral flu drugs that are now on the market, which can help you recover faster. These antiviral medications must be taken within the first two days of being infected in order to be effective.


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