September! Already! Of course, that means a sort of unofficial start of cold and flu season. The CDC recommends that we get vaccinated against flu starting in September because the flu can start to spread as early as October. What do you need to know to keep healthy? At the risk of sounding horribly mysophobic, let's talk about basic preventative measures from the CDC. You probably hear these things every year, but these actions should be almost reflexes. This kinda sounds a "Miss Manners" rant, but they do help in cutting down on transmission of the flu.
The CDC has six basic things that you can do to help avoid the flu.
1. Avoid close contact. This one is a bit difficult, assuming you may have a family member whom is sick. It is difficult to avoid contact if you are taking care of someone. But the following procedures will help cut down on risk of infection.
2. Staying home. DO IT! If you're sick, it's just polite and healthy for the rest of us. Missing work or school or important functions can be a problem, but how much can you really do if you have a fever and are putting others at risk?
3. Cover your mouth! DO IT! Sneezing, coughing and all that nastiness... Simply covering your mouth and nose really does cut down on how much you spray about. Seriously, the Mythbusters did it in slow motion. It's gross what happens if you don't cover up.
4. WASH YOUR HANDS! Always always always. Even when it's not flu season this is just a good idea. Hot water and soap are the best option. Barring that, alcohol-based hand gel is good.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. These places are basically entrance ways into the body. Keep your fingers away from those places till you've washed your hands. Again, it's a simple thing.
6. Watch your health. Get enough rest, eat right, exercise regularly. If your body gets run down and stressed, that can lower the effectiveness of your immune system.
Above all, get vaccinated against the flu. CDC recommends this step for everyone older than 6 months, especially adults 65 and older, who are at increased risk for complications from the flu. There is a high dose flu vaccine for individuals 65 and older - ask your pharmacist or doctor if it is right for you. Also, December 2nd through 8th is National Influenza Vaccination Week. We'll revisit that in a few months. But for now, WASH YOUR HANDS!
Photo Credit: DaGoaty on Flickr