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Healthy Habits to Help Protect Against the Flu

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  • Written By: Alyssa Hinman
Healthy Habits to Help Protect Against the Flu

Flu season is upon us. By now, you know how important it is to get a flu shot annually to protect yourself against the miserable symptoms that accompany it – and to keep it from spreading to more vulnerable populations.

But there are also healthy habits that all of us can adopt to help keep the flu at bay. Combined with your annual flu shot, these proactive steps can prevent the flu from ruining your winter plans.

What Is the Flu?

Influenza, or flu, is a common infection of the respiratory system. The flu is particularly contagious because it spreads through person-to-person contact. If someone with the flu coughs or sneezes near you, it's easy to breathe in those droplets and become infected. Hard surfaces, such as countertops, can also harbor the flu virus.

How do you know if it's the flu? You'll likely notice the quick onset of symptoms, which can be intense. These might include:

  • High fever
  • Body aches – in the muscles
  • General fatigue or malaise
  • Chills
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache

What Are the Best Healthy Habits to Protect Against the Flu?

The number one habit for protecting yourself against the flu is getting the flu vaccine every year. But beyond the vaccine, there are simple methods to stay healthy and strengthen your immune system.

  1. Wash Your Hands and Keep Surfaces Clean

It might seem obvious, but good health habits go a long way to keeping yourself healthy and happy. Flu season overlaps with holiday travel, and being in big crowds means good health habits are more important than ever.

Remember to wash your hands frequently. Because it's so easy to spread the flu through droplets, keep your hands clean and avoid touching your face to minimize the risk of transmission. Also, get into the practice of regularly disinfecting and cleaning surfaces that people frequently touch: remotes, light switches, toys, car keys, etc.

  1. Strengthen Your Immune System

A healthy immune system will help fight off illnesses, while a weakened immune system will lead to a longer recovery.

Start with some basics, like staying hydrated with water. Also, pay attention to the importance of a good night's sleep. Sleep is restorative to the immune system, so it's crucial to find the time to reset after a busy day. Also, look for ways to integrate exercise into your daily routine. Even walking or doing some easy stretching exercises will help your circulation. Lastly, it's always a good idea to see your primary care physician for annual, preventative care check-ups to stay on top of any health concerns. These habits can also help lower stress levels – an added immune system boost!

  1. Eat a Healthy Diet

Are there antiviral foods that protect against illness? Healthy food indeed plays a crucial role in strengthening your immune system and thus fighting illnesses like the flu, the common cold, and more.

Consider integrating some of the top 20 immune boosting foods into your daily diet. Look for foods with immune-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon. Other foods, like strawberries, citrus, or dark leafy greens, contain vitamin C – another big supporter of your immune system.

  1. Rest and Recover Before Seeing Others

The best thing you can do if you're dealing with the flu is to stay home if you're feeling sick. "Pushing through" an illness could potentially make others ill in the process. Also, get in the habit of covering any coughs or sneezes, as they can transmit the flu quickly.

  1. Get a Flu Shot

If you only do one thing to protect yourself against the flu, getting a flu shot should be your top choice. Side effects from the flu vaccine, like soreness around the injection site, headache, or fever,tend to be mild and go away within a day. And the benefits are significant. Wondering when to get flu shots? Getting it in the fall before the flu season begins is always a good idea, but it's effective at any time.

If you have questions about the flu, check out Flagler Health for more information.