Body aches, coughing, chills; the flu makes you miserable. While there’s no sure way to avoid it, taking certain steps can lower your risk of infection. Keep reading to learn more about the flu, ways to prevent it, and what to do if you’re sick. Armed with this knowledge, you can improve your chances of staying healthy.
Causes of Flu
Influenza is caused by many virus strains. Viruses enter the cells in your body and force them to make many copies of the virus. The cell is usually destroyed as the virus leaves and moves on to a new cell. The respiratory system spreads flu viruses from one person to another. A contagious person coughing or sneezing releases tiny droplets into the air. These droplets contain flu viruses, so you can get infected by inhaling them. You can also get infected by touching a surface that’s contaminated with flu viruses, then touching parts of your face, like your mouth, eyes, or nose.
Symptoms of flu include:
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Muscle aches
- Stuffy or runny nose
Flu is often mistaken for a common cold since the diseases share many of the same symptoms. Experiencing muscle aches, coughing, and feeling feverish together means you probably have the flu, not a cold.
Preparing for Flu Season
Get ready for flu season by stocking up on supplies. Tissues, hand sanitizer, and soap are important to have available. Make sure your medicine cabinet contains pain relievers, fever reducers, cough syrup, decongestants, and antihistamines, and check the expiration date on all your medicine. Plan ahead meals that are easy to prepare, and have snacks and beverages on hand. Make a backup plan if your kids need to stay home from school and find out about your company’s policy for sick days.
Tips for Preventing Flu
Do yourself a favor by taking simple steps to help your body defend itself and reduce your exposure to flu viruses:
- Get a flu shot early in flu season
- Minimize contact with sick people
- Avoid touching your face
- Wash your hands by scrubbing with soapy water for 20 seconds
- Disinfect frequently used items like doorknobs and phones
- Use hand sanitizer
- Don’t share objects
- Use tissues when you cough or sneeze, then throw them away promptly
General Tips for Staying Healthy
You’ve heard them before, but these general tips for staying healthy really do make a difference:
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Stay hydrated
- Quit smoking
- Reduce stress
Dealing with Flu
Getting the flu is no fun, but following these tips can help reduce discomfort and speed your recovery:
- Stay home to avoid spreading the virus to others and give yourself time to recover
- Talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for an antiviral drug
- Take pain relievers to help lower a fever and make you more comfortable
- Sleep and rest to give your immune system a chance to fight the infection
- Drink lots of clear fluids to stay hydrated, like water, hot tea, chicken soup, and sports drinks
When to See Your Doctor
It’s time to see your doctor if your symptoms get worse or linger. In general, it’s best to seek medical advice any time you aren’t sure of something related to your health. So if you’re worried about the infection for other reasons, talk to your doctor.
Lower your chance for misery this year by taking steps to prevent the flu. It may be impossible to avoid exposure to flu viruses, but you can use these tips to help stay healthy.