The facts? Flu season is already upon us and there are reports of widespread flu across the country. With flu vaccines still on the way in many areas, rest assured there are steps you can take to avoid getting the flu this year. Here are some very simple ways you and your family can take action to stay healthy:
Wash your hands. A lot. Be sure to use warm soap and water and remember to scrub your wrists, back of hands and finger nails. Make it a habit for you and your family to wash your hands every time you come in the house, in addition to before mealtime and bedtime. Twenty seconds is the minimum recommended hand washing time - teach small kids to sing "Happy Birthday" twice. Then completely dry your hands with a dry paper towel (said to be more effective at killing germs than the hot air dryers in public restrooms). Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective if you are unable to get to a sink - stash them in your car and your purse for when you are on the go.
"Hands-off-the-face" approach. Many flu viruses can only enter your body through your mouth, eyes or nose. Resist all temptations to touch any part of your face (unless you are eating or bathing).
Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (use Listerine if you don't like the taste of salt). H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the throat/ nasal cavity to take hold and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling can prevent propagation. Don't underestimate this simple, inexpensive and powerful preventative method.
Flush your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water. An easy way to do this is using a nasal saline rinse kit (available at most drug stores) or a neti pot. It may seem awkward the first time you do it, but it is a painless, effective way to throughly rinse your nasal cavity and is a great treatment and preventative measure for upper respiratory and sinus ailments, in addition to the flu virus. Blowing your nose hard once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water is also very effective in bringing down viral population.
Vitamin C. Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C like citrus fruits, kiwi, red and green peppers, cantaloupes, brussel sprouts, strawberries and tomatoes. If you have to supplement with Vitamin C tablets, make sure that it also has Zinc to boost absorption.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D is the "miracle nutrient" that activates your immune system to defend you against invading microorganisms- including flu viruses. Two months ago, an important study was published by researchers at Oregon State University which revealed that Vitamin D is so crucial to the functioning of your immune system that its ability to boost immune function and destroy invading microorganisms has been conserved in the genome for over 60 million years. The best sources of Vitamin D are sunlight and supplements (fish oil is a good source too). Even kids should get at least 15 minutes of sunlight - without sunscreen - each day.
Drink warm liquids (tea, water with lemon, etc.). As much as you can. Drinking warm liquids has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. They wash off viruses from the throat into the stomach where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm.
What can you do to avoid infection if someone in your family is sick? Don't panic. If they are seriously ill, keep them in one room and only have one person in the family take care of them. Diligently clean home items that are used by everyone - like door knobs, light switches, remote controls and telephones. Use the "sanitize" cycle on your dishwasher if you have one, and if not, run the hot cycle. A good source for additional information is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - www.cdc.gov.
So take charge of your health and you can take action to stay healthy and avoid the flu this year!