Courtesy of Carters Drug Store
Besides getting the vaccine, here is the other flu advice to arm yourself with:
1. Follow the “six-foot rule” with anyone who seems sick. When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes, or even talks, the virus is expelled via respiratory droplets- and this is the most frequent way people become infected. The droplets rarely travel beyond six feet or so. If you take public transportation, you may not have this choice, however.
2. Wash your hands often-after you shake hands, for example, or handle an object someone else was using, such as a computer keyboard or phone. When you can’t wash with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner (with at least 60 percent alcohol). Skip antibacterial soaps- they’re not good against viruses and my contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
3.When out in public, try to avoid touching your lips, nose, or eyes, unless you’ve just washed your hands.
That’s easier said than done since people tend to touch their faces without being aware—an average of 16 times an hour according to a study done here at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health a few years ago.
4. Get the pneumococcal vaccine if you’re 65 or older, are a smoker, or have a chronic disease such as diabetes, lung or heart disease, asthma, or HIV infection.
This reduces mortality from the leading cause of bacterial pneumonia (a major complication of the flu) in older people.
You need the vaccine only once, unless you got it before age 65, in which case you’ll need a booster.
5. If you have flu symptoms, talk to your doctor about whether you should take a prescription anti-flu drug, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). When taken within the first two days of symptoms, they may shorten the duration and severity of the infection.
6. Don’t fall for claims that dietary supplements (such as echinacea or vitamin C) or homeopathic remedies (such as Oscil-lococcimum and Nux vomica) can prevent or treat the flu. They can’t.
One possible exception is vitamin D, which plays an important role in the immune system. In a 2010 Japanese study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, schoolchildren given vitamin D supplements (1,200 IU a day) throughout winter were 40 percent less likely to develop the flu than those given a placebo.
Other recent studies have shown that healthy adults with higher blood levels of vitamin D were less likely to develop viral respiratory infections. Still, more research is needed.
7. If you do get the flu, sty home so you don’t infect others (typically, adults are contagious for about a day before symptoms begin and for about five days after; children longer). If you have to go out and need to cough or sneeze but have no tissue, do it into your sleeve or the crook of your arm, rather than into your hand or the air.