Friday, November 2, 2012

Tips for Staying Healthy During Flu Season

One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

By Kaetlin Miller, MPH, CHES
Health Education Specialist

No, that’s not a typo. Flu season is upon us. As summer vacations end, kids go back to school and work picks up again, things can get a little cuckoo. The added stress tied with more contact with people as we head indoors to escape the cooling weather mean that we are more likely to get sick.

Germs like the flu love two things: weaker immune systems (thanks, stress!) and people in close contact with each other.  Schools and offices (two of the most cuckoo places this time of year) are ideal breeding grounds for the flu, which still kills tens of thousands of people every year. The bright side of this is that the flu is preventable!

Here are the top four ways to keep from getting sick this season:

  • Get a flu shot. They are quick and easy to get, plus your insurance covers it. Most pharmacies provide them and your workplace may even, too. Swedish employees and physicians can find the flu shot clinic calendar here. (If your doctors get it, that definitely means it’s important!)
    Can’t find a flu shot clinic? Try this “Flu Vaccine Finder” to find the closest one to you. Go on your lunch break or stop by on your way to work or school. A few minutes can save you days of misery.

The best time to get your flu shot is now but it can still help even into January. Doctors recommend that everyone get a flu shot but it is most important for people over 50 and people with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart/lung disease.

  • Wash your hands often! Use anti-bacterial soap and warm water and sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (out loud or in your head, your choice) while you wash your hands. Don’t stop until you’ve finished the entire song! That’s just enough time to kill most of the flu-causing germs.

  • Vampire cough. In the spirit of Halloween, channel Count Dracula and cough/sneeze into your elbow (not your hands!) like you're holding a cape in front of your body. That keeps germs from flying into the air and into other people.

  • If you’re sick, stay home. As work and school get cuckoo, it can be hard to stop and take care of yourself. But if you stay home when you don’t feel well, you will help your body heal faster and you’ll keep others from getting sick, too. We may be getting close to the season of giving, but the flu is not something anybody wants to get.

So why should you do all these things? You may have a super strong immune system or just pure luck, but those around you may not. One of the easiest things you can do to keep you, your loved ones and those around you happy and healthy is to get a flu shot and keep your germs to yourself. It’s not just a matter of making sure you feel okay, but also doing what you can to keep others doing the same. Things may be getting cuckoo at home, school and work, but don’t let the opportunity fly by to get your flu shot and keep the next few months flu-free.

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