Each year, between 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the influenza virus. Even more concerning, over 200,000 of these people are hospitalized due to flu-related complications. Flu seasons can be wildly unpredictable and severe. For this reason, it’s important to take steps to reduce your risk of contracting this highly infectious disease.
Contrary to popular belief, supplements and home remedies won’t protect you from the flu. While it’s good to eat nutrient-rich foods that support our immune systems, no amount of vitamin C can keep the influenza virus from spreading throughout your body. That said, you can protect yourself with the following smart, effective anti-influenza tactics:
- Get vaccinated: This is by far the most effective way to protect yourself from the influenza. Flu vaccines introduce inactive forms of the virus into the body, prompting it to create antibodies. While they don’t protect against every strain of the flu, seasonal vaccines do protect you from the most common varieties.
- Wash your hands: It may sound simple, but soap and water can save you from days of agony related to a flu infection. That said, to completely eliminate virus particles from your skin, you need to thoroughly scrub your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. Try singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice before stopping, and be sure to get in between the fingers and under your fingernails.
- Use hand sanitizer: Alcohol-based hand sanitizer will kill influenza germs. This is especially useful if you’re in an environment which forces you to shake hands frequently or touch community items without access to a sink. Try carrying a pocket-size bottle of sanitizer with you during the peak of flu season if you don’t think you’ll have opportunities to wash your hands.
- Avoid sick people: This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially when the sick person lives in your home. Still, you can reduce your risk of contracting the flu by taking a common sense approach. Make sure to sanitize your hands after any and every interaction. If you’re caring for a sick child or a loved one, disinfect commonly used items, such as doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, toilets and refrigerator handles.
- Don’t touch your face: It’s common for people to contract the flu by touching their mouth, nose or eyes after coming into contact with a tainted surface. Many people don’t realize how often they touch their faces out of habit or to address an itch. Try to be mindful of your hands and habits to reduce the chances of accidentally infecting yourself.