4 steps for staying healthy during flu season
1/13/2020 by Robert M. Jacobson, MD
While the best prevention is getting an influenza (flu) vaccine, there are other steps you can take to prevent infection and stay healthy:
- Wash your hands often. Clean hands are key to helping prevent the transfer of infection from others to you. Soap up, rinse off and dry your hands throughout the day. Do this especially before eating, drinking and after using the toilet. Here's the best technique: Wet your hands and scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds; rinse and dry thoroughly. Use skin moisturizers during the winter to avoid chapping and skin breakdown.
- Get enough sleep. Every night, make sure you're getting the sleep you need to recover from the day. Studies show that weekend "catch up" sleep doesn't make up for getting enough sleep during the week.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water throughout the day. Your water needs increase during the winter when furnaces dry out the air in our homes and offices.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and lips during the day. Even though you're washing your hands, soap and water can only do so much to remove germs. Your eyes, nose and lips are direct entry points for germs.
What if you do get sick?
- Stay home and get better!
- Don't take your illness to work, school or other activities.
- Take the time you need to recuperate.
- Get medical attention.
- If your fever lasts more than three days or your illness runs more than 10 days.
- Right away if you develop difficulty breathing, you're unable to stay hydrated, you experience dizziness, or you suffer severe pain in the chest or abdomen.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue away in a waste basket.
- If you don't have a tissue handy, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow.
- Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water after coughing or sneezing.
- Wear a mask.
- If you're sneezing and coughing and making a visit to the clinic, ask for a mask at the desk.
- For health care providers, wear a mask if you're seeing a patient who's coughing and sneezing.
Dr. Robert M. Jacobson is a primary care pediatrician in Primary Care in Rochester's Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and the medical director of the Immunization Program for Primary Care in Southeast Minnesota.