Chances are this winter season you, your family, your friends and co-workers have already contracted the flu and are over the worst of it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this season has been one of the worst in several years. Many, even with the flu vaccine, are seeking treatment with their health care provider.
Unfortunately, new research demonstrates that the flu virus can travel up to six feet simply from talking and breathing.
Historically, the flu virus is thought to spread only over short distances and with coughing and sneezing in the release of larger respiratory droplets.
This of course makes it important to wear a mask when sick, cover your nose when you cough or sneeze (preferably with your arm, not your hands) and use tissues.
With this new information that the virus can move more than a foot or two, it becomes critically important that hygiene and health practices take an even larger role.
First, if you are sick, feeling down, experiencing chills and a fever, coughing, sneezing, difficulty swallowing with congested sinuses and ears -- please stay home.
Unless you are running to your health care provider’s office for help or the local pharmacy for treatment and tissue -- the public does not want to become sick. Do not try to muster through it because you will end up feeling worse and infecting those around you.
Second, sanitize yourself. Wash your hands frequently or use antibacterial germ lotion.
Remember to wipe down everything. This includes your cell phone, your steering wheel, your desk, keyboard, counters, your iPod and iPad and whatever else your hands come in contact with.
Many grocery stores are offering antibacterial wipes to swipe the handle of the shopping cart before use which can help reduce infection as well.
Third, take care of yourself. The flu season usually hits during a stressful time of year (think -- holidays) when the weather is colder, darker and wetter and dietary/exercise habits may be more in “hibernation” instead of keeping healthy.
Remember to stay hydrated, minimize sugar and caffeine, get a good solid amount of sleep, say “no” to things that stress you out, and laugh often. (Try to do this last with your mouth closed so you do not breathe in other people’s respiratory droplets!).
Fourth, keep up on your supplements as they may be helpful. Probiotics, commonly known as the good gut bacteria or live active cultures in yogurt, help support the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract especially after a course of antibiotics, vomiting or diarrhea.
While yogurt may sound good when you are sick, dairy products often thicken mucus which may not be ideal when you have a congested head. Therefore a capsule daily is recommended instead.
There are many mixed supplements that contain vitamin C, B vitamins, zinc, elderberry, echinacea, garlic and more, in order to strengthen the immune system.
While research is mixed, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence in my practice to show that sick people love their supplements and report shorter duration, easier symptoms, and less illness overall.
Fifth, even if you have gotten a flu shot, you can still come down with the flu.
With the number of people who did receive the vaccine and still got the flu, many in the health field report that the flu vaccine was good at targeting the main strain, the influenza A virus, but not as good targeting the influenza B virus.
This information is all tracked by the CDC at their Fluview webpage, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/ However, talk with your health care provider to determine if the vaccine is a good idea for you at this time.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Situation Update: Summary of Weekly Fluview. Web. 3 February, 2013.
Brown, T. Now Published: Flu Virus can spread up to 6 feet, No Cough or Sneeze Required. Web. 3 February, 2013.
Ciorba, M. A Gastroenterologist’s Guide to Probiotics. Web. 3 February, 2013.
Reviewed February 5, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith