How to Stay Healthy During Flu Season

 
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Flu season is upon us.  That dreaded stretch of time between October and May where between 5% - 20% of the entire U.S. population is sick.  Of the individuals who contract the flu, over 200,000 are hospitalized and an average of 23,000 of those die each year.  New York State is having one of its worst flu seasons in decades with 11,683 laboratory-confirmed influenza reports last week, a 50% increase from the week before.  To put into perspective how prevalent the flu is this year, last year at this time there were only 5,235 new confirmed reports of influenza during the last week in January.  This is the worst the flu has been since New York State started recording weekly influenza data back in the 2003-2004 season, nearly 15 years ago.  The flu is a communicable disease, meaning it can easily be spread from person to person, or through contact with droplets of bacteria from coughing, sneezing, or talking.  How can we protect ourselves from this virus?  I've outlined three major ways you can stay healthy during this flu season:

Get The Flu Shot

It's not too late, you can still get the flu shot.  Studies show that the flu vaccination can prevent between 40% - 60% of cases among the general population.  Also, the flu vaccination can make the virus milder even if you happen to still contract it.  Those that received the shot had a reduction in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and fatality versus those who did not receive the vaccination.  Nearly 90% of flu-related deaths are those over the age of 65 so even if you don't fall into that category, you are still contagious to those who might.  If you are feeling any of the symptoms related to the flu such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, or headaches then stay home, you may already be contagious.  Call your healthcare provider and see what they recommend if you have any underlying health conditions that you may think prevent you from getting the flu shot this year.  Where can you get the vaccination?  Locally, Target, Rite Aid, Price Chopper, and Walgreens are major distributers of the shot so check with your local pharmacy or insurance company and be proactive about the flu this year.

Wash. Your. Hands.  

The flu is spread when you are in close contact with someone who is contagious with the virus.  Although getting the flu shot is the number one way to prevent the flu, washing your hands frequently throughout the day can help keep bacteria away.  If you don't have access to soap and water throughout the day, buy an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to keep with you.  Be aware of your surroundings and keep your hands away from your face and mouth!  We may not realize how often our hands are touching our face but this is a really great way for bacteria to enter your body! Also, consider sanitizing frequently used/touched objects such as your cellphone, keyboard, and doorknobs.  Your phone can actually be 10x dirtier than a toilet seat so be aware and take these steps to sanitize your surroundings.  

Drink Water, Eat Healthy and Be Active!

Our immune system cannot fight at its strongest when we consume foods that are low in nutritional value or our body is dehydrated.  Eating fruits and vegetables is crucial in supplying your body with the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals so it can properly fight off infection.  Foods with low nutritional value such as processed foods and refined sugars not only lead to long-term health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity but they can also make you susceptible to illness.  Try eating less packaged food and more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.  Consistently being active can also improves the quality of our health by making our body stronger and giving us more energy.  You don't have to be a superstar to be active!  Start with small goals, like taking the stairs at work or parking far away.  Work your way up to bigger goals like walking around your neighborhood for 30 minutes each day or even getting a gym membership or taking a yoga class! 

Following these three steps can help you get through this flu season!  Share these tips with your loved ones to help make 2018 another year of happiness and health!