Avoiding and Fighting the Dreaded Flu
Ick! It’s that season where everyone around you seems to have the sniffles. And no matter how you try to stay healthy and keep your immune system strong, the flu seems determined to find you.
The CDC announced that the United States has already reached epidemic status with more than 45 million Americans infected with the flu this year. That, and other early indications (like the fact that the CDC’s vaccine created this year isn’t predicted to be very useful against the most common current strain) suggest that this season, which can last until as late as May, may be particularly severe. So if you wake up with a tickle in your throat, take it seriously. And to avoid that tickle altogether? Well, you should listen to the advice of a respected medical professional.
Because this time of year is so torturous, we reached out to one of our own favorite nationally recognized health experts, Nurse Barb Dehn! Nurse Barb, Women’s Health Practitioner, award-winning author, and — conveniently — Vicks’ Spokesperson has a few practical and easy tips to keep the flu away from us and our families, or… if the dreaded does happen, to find relief and power through the symptoms!
Despite health care providers’ directions for patients to stay home and limit spreading the virus, work pressure is the leading motive consumers cite when deciding not to take a sick day. (Financial concerns and fear of falling behind at the office also weigh in.) But these “reasons” are rough on the rest of us! Remember that your ability to do work is seriously impaired when you are suffering from cold or flu — and your colleagues are seriously frustrated when they catch your infection.
So, since you can’t lock your sick co-workers out of the office, Nurse Barb was willing to share her best tips for avoiding this year’s affliction. Nurse, what are your best bets on how we can get this sickness to skip us? Her succinct suggestions:
- Avoid germs at work. You know those germ-ridden places to watch out for at the office: the sink in the break room, the office microwave, and doorknobs… so many doorknobs! Keep antiseptic wipes with you and remember to wash your hands frequently.
- Say no to stress. Believe it or not, stress can influence the symptoms of cold, cough and flu by interfering with how the immune system functions. To keep your immune system strong, make sure to get plenty of rest and sleep all the time, not just when you’re sick.
- Sleep on a schedule. Go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule. Plus, avoid stimulating beverages like caffeinated coffee or alcohol before going to sleep, as well as bright light from the screens on your phone, TV or other electronic devices.
- Try tea. Nurse Barb says that drinking an herbal tea, like chamomile, passionflower or other soothing teas before bed can help you relax while also getting helpful fluids into your system.
The CDC also recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as a first step in protecting against this serious disease. Vaccines are readily available by shot and nasal spray at a variety of convenient locations near you. If you get the flu vaccine, experts say you are 60% less likely to need treatment for the flu by a healthcare provider. Additionally, getting the vaccine has been shown to offer substantial other benefits.
But what do you do if the cursed condition does come your way? Nurse Barb offered some tips on how to deal with that disaster as well!
- Know the signs. You are most contagious in the first 24 hours when your flu symptoms are at their worst. If you have two or more of these symptoms, stay home to rest: Fever over 101o F, Cough, Sore Throat, Running Nose, Headache, Body Aches, Chills, or Fatigue.
- Elevate the head of the bed. Place a pillow under your mattress to raise the upper body from the waist up. This allows blood to flow away from the head and reduce inflammation of the air passages. Using extra pillows can also ease body aches by taking the pressure off hips, knees and back.
- Take a hot shower before bed. Steam and humidity can cause sinuses to drain and relieve stuffiness from a cold. It can also help you to relax, and ease chills, aches and fatigue. Put your towel and/or bathrobe in the dryer so that you don’t feel chilled when you get out, and make sure the room is nice and warm.
- Take a multi-symptom medication. You want fast, effective relief to help you get back to your busy life, right? The Nurse suggests looking for a medication that can treat the toughest symptoms while also helping you rest. There are some great over the counter medications that fight your worst cold & flu symptoms, so you can power through the ailments during the day, and get the rest you need at night to get back to being you.
Remember, flu season typically starts in December and lasts as late as May, so stay on high alert… and take Nurse Barb’s advice.