The “flu” is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu shot each year!

The most common symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, and, in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting. The flu may cause worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions for some people. The CDC recommends yearly flu vaccination for everyone older than 6 months of age as the first and most important step in protecting against seasonal influenza.

There are many opportunities for vaccination in the community; take advantage of health fairs and clinics at your workplace or at your local hospital. Consult with your doctor about vaccination options to decide what is best for you and your family.

In addition to vaccination, properly wash your hands to fight bacteria and viruses (use soap and warm water, and if not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer). Even though hand washing is a simple task, many people do not wash their hands as often as they should. Keep in mind that you are exposed to a variety of germs in your day-to-day life from sources such as other people, food, animal waste, and contaminated surfaces. Harmful germs may linger on doorknobs and elevator buttons. Once exposed, you can infect yourself with germs by touching your eyes, mouth and nose.

Proper hand washing with soap and warm water:

  • Wet your hands with warm, running water, and apply liquid soap or use clean bar soap. Scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers, and under your fingernails.
  • Rub your hands vigorously together for at least 15 to 20 seconds or sing “Happy Birthday” twice. There are plenty of ways you could use the “extra” time; if you are not a singer, reflect, breath deeply or pray while you wash!
  • Rinse your hands well and then dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel.
  • Use a towel to turn off the faucet and open a public restroom door. Please dispose of the trash properly.

Practice other good health habits such as getting regular exercise, rest, stress management and following a healthy diet.

If you are experiencing flu like symptoms, call your family doctor and stay at home, away from other people to prevent further spread of the illness. Infected individuals may be able to spread the flu to others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven or more days after becoming sick.

Sources: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, LifeWork Strategies and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers.