4 tried & tested ways of avoiding the flu
Remember the flu?
Like an outdated fashion trend, the influenza virus has been forgotten, stuffed in the back of the wardrobe to make room for the heavily spotlighted coronavirus.
But the flu isn’t outdated - it’s a staple illness each time winter comes around, and for the elderly and vulnerable, it can be very serious.
We’ve created this guide so you can stay in the loop by learning the tried and tested ways to avoid the flu this season.
What is the flu?
The flu is short for influenza, a very contagious viral infection that attacks your respiratory system, i.e. your nose, throat, and lungs.
After a few days of bed-rest, the flu will most likely resolve on its own, but the following people may experience complications:
- Babies and young children
- Over 65s
- Pregnant women and those who have recently given birth
- Those with a weakened immune system
- Those who suffer from a chronic illness such as asthma, diabetes, or heart, liver, or kidney disease
- Overweight and obese people
The flu is easily spread by the respiratory droplets of an infected person and can be transmitted from coughing, talking, or by physical contact such as shaking hands.
If you touch your nose, mouth, or eyes with unwashed hands, you could be putting yourself at risk, which is why hand hygiene is so important.
What are the symptoms?
If you have contracted flu, your symptoms can develop very quickly and may include:
- A high temperature of 38 degrees or above
- Aches and pains
- A dry cough
- A sore throat
- A headache
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhoea or tummy pain
- Feeling or being sick
The symptoms of flu in children are similar, but they may also develop ear pain and appear less active than usual.
So, how can you avoid the flu?
Nobody wants to be battling the flu this winter, so what’s the best way to avoid coming into contact with the virus?
Getting your annual flu jab is the most effective way to protect yourself from becoming unwell.
You’ll be offered the jab for free if:
- You’re over 50
- You Have certain health conditions
- You Are pregnant
- You Are the main carer of an ‘at risk’ person
- You’re in residential care
- You live with somebody who is more likely to catch infections, such as somebody who has HIV, or if they have had a transplant or ongoing cancer treatment
- You’re a healthcare worker
There’s a lot of misconceptions surrounding the flu jab, like having the jab will cause you to develop the flu.
But this is untrue; the flu jab contains a dead virus so it’s impossible for it to give you the flu.
You may experience mild side effects, like with all vaccinations, such as a sore arm or a temperature.
Any flu-like symptoms you develop after your jab was most likely already in your system, or you caught it at the same time.
Practice good hygiene
Like the flu jab, practicing good hygiene methods will be one of your greatest allies to defend against the flu.
The flu virus is very contagious and can spread to somebody within 2 meters, and some studies found that people can transmit the virus to others simply by breathing.
It may seem like catching the flu is unavoidable, especially if you work in an office environment.
But by putting good hygiene practices into place, you can minimize the spread by:
- Avoiding close contact with others - if you are unwell, stay at home
- Wearing a face covering if you are unable to avoid close contact
- Covering your entire mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough with a tissue, then disposing of it immediately after use
- Keeping your hands clean by regularly hand washing or using hand sanitiser
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth - if you need to, make sure you clean your hands beforehand
- Wash hands before handling food and eating
- Frequently cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, like your desk or a shared kitchen worktop
Give your immune system a boost
Give yourself more protection by boosting your immune system.
This is especially important if you suffer from asthma or allergies as they can affect how well your immune system works.
When your immune system is functioning at its best, it will launch attacks on threats, such as the flu virus, so you’ll want to provide it with the greatest equipment it needs.
You can achieve this by:
- Eating lots of fruit, vegetables, and antioxidant-rich foods, like blueberries
- Introducing supplements like vitamin D into your diet, which plays a vital role in the functioning of the immune system
- Exercising frequently
- Getting a good night's sleep
- Reducing stress
Avoid large crowds
The more people you come into contact with, the more likely you are to catch the flu.
Whilst It’s best to avoid busy places, sometimes you may not have the option, like if you need to visit the shops.
Wear a face covering, keep your distance, and frequently apply hand sanitizer when coming into contact with various objects and surfaces.
Not only will this help to protect you against the coronavirus, but also the flu.
By following these 4 steps both at home and in the workplace, you’re more likely to avoid contracting the flu this winter.
But if you are unlucky enough to catch it, don’t worry - we’ve got plenty of cold and flu treatments to get you back to yourself in no time.
If you need more information about the flu, visit the NHS website.