Are you ready for flu season 2018? These helpful tips on how to prevent the flu explore how to reduce the risk of infection for you and your family.
There’s no recipe for how to prevent the flu. As friends and co-workers start to fall ill with the flu this season, it’s easy to feel powerless against catching it, especially if you have kids at home. But take heart; there are things you can do to help prevent the flu with safeguards that will help to protect yourself and your family. Here, Walmart.ca shares some expert advice to help keep you and your family well during flu season.
Dr. Allison McGeer is a Microbiologist, Infectious Disease Consultant, and the Director of Infection Control and the Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Research Program at the Sinai Health System in Toronto, Canada, and a Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She has been a member of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization, and the Ontario Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee.
Table of Contents:
- Vaccination is one of the best prevention methods
- How can you better protect yourself from the flu?
- How can you prevent getting the flu from your family?
- What can you take to prevent the flu?
Vaccination is one of the best prevention methods
Ask Dr. McGeer what the number one thing you can do to prevent the flu is and she’ll proclaim: “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine.”
“It’s the only thing we have good evidence for,” states Dr. McGeer. Interestingly, Dr. McGeer says that many people with the flu are asymptomatic, meaning they can spread the flu unwittingly. Also complicating things: The incubation period of influenza is usually two days, but can range from one to four days, so adults may be able to spread influenza to others from one day before symptoms start to approximately five days after. Children and people with weakened immune systems may be infectious for longer.
Symptoms, when they do occur, typically include high fever, cough and muscle aches. Other common symptoms can include a headache, chills, loss of appetite, fatigue and sore throat. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur, especially in children.
The people at greatest risk of influenza-related complications are adults and children with underlying health conditions, residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities, people 65 years of age and older, children under 60 months of age, pregnant women and Indigenous peoples.
How can you better protect yourself from the flu?
Influenza, or the flu as it is more commonly referred to, is primarily transmitted by droplet spread through coughing or sneezing. It may also be transmitted through direct or indirect contact with contaminated respiratory secretions.
Washing your hands often can help keep the virus from spreading. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. If you do get the flu, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze to help prevent the spread of infection.
“There’s no question that washing your hands regularly helps prevent the spread of infection,” says Dr. McGeer, who adds that hand hygiene helps protect against all respiratory illnesses. “Things like keeping your hands away from your face should help too, as the infection spreads when the hands go to the face and touch mucous membranes.”
How can you prevent getting the flu from your family?
Here’s a good time to practise personal space. Dr. McGeer says that keeping a distance from people can help prevent catching the flu. “The more and closer the contact, the greater the risk of infection,” she says.
However, with the flu being more likely to transmit among household contacts than people you work with, it can be hard to follow through—especially if you share your space with small children.
“For adults, the thing that puts you most at risk of getting influenza is having young children,” says Dr. McGeer. The reasons are many, she explains. One, kids are still building up immunity and are more likely to get the flu. They also shed the virus for longer periods of time, and often lack shall we say, secretion control and good hygiene.
Crowds can be particularly risky for older adults, says Dr. McGeer. “Influenza outbreaks are more common in closely populated areas, and in nursing homes and hospital wards, patients and residents can get really sick,” she states. That’s why it’s so important that everyone at a nursing home gets vaccinated, including staff, visitors and suppliers, and why it’s helpful to not have kids visit during flu season.
The same reasoning applies to homes with newborn babies. Although mothers can get vaccinated when pregnant, which provides babies with some protection, it’s still important for dads and visitors in the household to be vaccinated. “You have a lot of control over where the baby goes, who they see, so you can try to reduce the risk that way and keep them away from crowded circumstances,” says Dr. McGeer.
What can you take to help prevent the flu?
While Dr. McGeer says there’s no evidence that diet or vitamins can help prevent the flu, she does say that there is some evidence that COLD-FX may help you feel sick for shorter periods, if taken according to the label instructions and recommended intake on the package.
And while it may be tempting to wash the house down in sanitizer, Dr. McGeer says that there is actually little evidence that hard surfaces and the environment are associated with flu transmission. “Another way to not have the flu in the house is to have everyone vaccinated and to not let sick people in,” she says.