The weather starts turning cold. The leaves fall off the trees. The sweaters, coats and boots come out of hiding and it seems inevitable that cold and flu viruses infiltrate American homes. Children are often the main culprit, bringing germs home from school, spreading them to the rest of the family, and then recycling the virus back to school to start the cycle all over again.
The seasonal influenza virus (often referred to as the flu) is the most severe form of winter viruses. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 5 to 20 percent of the American population will get the influenza virus and each year more then 200,000 people will be hospitalized from it.
And, unlike viral respiratory infections like the common cold, those who are exposed to influenza can have life-threatening results. In fact, thousands of people die each year after contracting the virus. The flu affects the respiratory tract which includes the nose, throat and lungs and it can be especially dangerous to sensitive groups like the elderly, infants, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.
While one can not necessarily stop the influenza virus from coming in contact with oneself or one's family, there are simple, quick, fairly cheap ways to keep from getting sick and ending up as another statistic.
3 ways to NOT get the flu this year:
1. Get a flu shot.
Sure it will sting for a few seconds but that pain is no where near how bad the flu can make one feel. Plus, now there are even nasal vaccines for those who meet the age and health requirements. The CDC says getting a seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the spread of influenza and recommends them for everyone 6 months and older.
Flu vaccines protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and an H1N1 virus. Immunity sets in about two weeks after vaccination.
2. Wash hands.
It should go without saying that everyone should wash their hands after using the bathroom, sneezing or coughing. Washing hands before eating, especially in a public place, is also a good idea.