Thursday, January 22, 2015

Five ways to get ready for flu season

Five ways to get ready for flu season

Written by: Michelle Fordice, Red Cross Volunteer

Do your kids seem sneezy? Has your coworker just admitted that they have felt awful all day, but they just couldn’t miss work? Sounds like it’s flu season! Flu season usually peaks in January or February, and reports of cases are already growing in the Washington D.C. metro area. So how do you keep yourself from becoming a miserable lump in bed? Read on!

Get the flu shot.
Get the flu shot every year to minimize illness. The CDC recommends “a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease,” and advises that it’s never too late in the season to get vaccinated. Not sure where to get the shot? offers a searchable directory for finding a provider near you here. Remember, the flu vaccine will only protect you for one flu season, so make sure you get it every year.

Practice good health habits.
There are many every day preventative actions you can take to reduce the chances of getting the flu. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, be physically active, manage your stress, and drink plenty of fluids. Moderate exercise on a near-daily basis can be a good immune booster. In addition to the direct benefits, regular exercise usually leads to better sleep and reduced stress. Combine flu prevention with your New Year’s Resolutions and pick one activity to do every day. For a complete list of moderate exercises, check out the CDC

Know what to look for.
Do you know what the signs of the flu are? The CDC lists commons signs of the flu as fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and vomiting or diarrhea. And how do you differentiate the flu from a cold? The flu tends to come with a fever, body aches and sets in much faster than a cold. Remember, some people are more prone to getting the flu. For a list of people at high risk, visit the CDC.

Stop the spread of germs.
Help us all out and do your part to stop the spread of germs. Here are some tips:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Bring disinfecting wipes to work to help keep your desk clean.
  • Since commuters in the D.C. metro area are likely to use public transportation, consider picking up a travel pack of tissues and a small bottle of hand sanitizer to use after holding onto that Metro poll or escalator handrail.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze towards your elbow or upper sleeve, rather than your hands.  
  • People with flu can spread it to others up to six feet away, so minimize your contact with those who are sick. If you are an employer, adopt business practices and a company culture that encourages your staff to stay home when they are ill.
  • If someone in your home is ill, make sure you disinfect items that are regularly touched.
How to be prepared.
The flu is contagious. You can infect others a day before symptoms appear and up to a week after becoming sick. Stay home and protect those around you. The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).
But before you get sick, consider preparing a “sick-day box.” Being sick is bad enough, but having to run to the grocery store when you’re feeling miserable is even worse (Plus, you’re exposing others to your germs). Consider keeping a bin in the closet that has all of the things you’ll want when you’re feeling icky. Some ideas:

  • Cans of soup
  • Easy to eat foods, like applesauce
  • Boxes of tea. Teas with ginger, lemon, peppermint, or chamomile are all good choices for sick days. Don’t forget the honey!
  • Cough drops
  • Disinfecting wipes and disposable gloves to make cleaning up easier
  • Tissues
  • Lip balm
  • Ginger ale or other calorie containing clear juices
  • Gatorade, or other electrolyte sports drinks. (If you’re short on space, you can get these in powder form.)
  • Heat packs. You can make these by filling a small bag (make sure it’s 100% cotton so that it can go in the microwave) with rice, deer corn, oatmeal, or beans. You can also add cloves, lavender, rosemary or other good smelling spices for some extra therapy. These bags can be spritzed with water and put in the microwave to create a reusable heat pack that’s great for aches and pains. 
  • Items for a bath. Have Epsom salts and an essential oil, like lavender, eucalyptus or peppermint on hand to create a relaxing bath.
  • Any medications you feel you may need. Check regularly to make sure they have not expired.
  • If you have children, you may want to set aside a few puzzles, games, and books that are special for sick days. A new set of pajamas or fuzzy socks to laze about in can also make a kid’s day brighter.

Good luck, germ fighters! 

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