The winter season usually marks the start of the holidays for most, but it also signals the beginning of flu season. Flu viruses are more likely to spread during winter, which is why it’s important to protect yourself from getting sick.
The flu is a respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses with symptoms that include fever, dry cough, headache, sore throat, runny nose, and muscle and joint pain. For most, the flu is a mild illness that usually subsides after a week or two, but for those with weak immune systems, pre-existing health problems like diabetes or asthma, and older people, the flu can be very serious and, at times, life-threatening.
While this can be alarming, there are ways you can protect yourself and others from getting sick and catching the flu.
How to Avoid Getting the Flu
The COVID-19 pandemic greatly changed the way we perceive the flu and how we actively guard ourselves against viruses. Frequent hand washing, wearing face masks, and boosting the immune system are some common ways to avoid getting sick during the cold season, and are also effective ways to prevent flu viruses from potentially spreading.
You can breeze through the cold season without feeling under the weather by following preventive measures to lessen viral infection and transmission.
- Get Vaccinated
The best way to avoid getting the flu is through vaccination. It’s recommended to get an annual vaccination especially for people at high risk of infection. Influenza strains that cause the flu change and mutate as they circulate, which is why it’s vital to get a shot every year.
Ideally, you should get vaccinated before influenza season, but you can get it any time during the winter. However, it’s also important to understand that getting a vaccine does not automatically guarantee immunization from the flu.
To distinguish a vaccine vs. immunization, keep the following in mind:
- Vaccine: A vaccine introduces an agent to the body that stimulates the immune system to recognize the agent as foreign and potentially harmful, thus destroying and keeping a record of it. This way, the immune system can detect and destroy similar microorganisms in the future.
- Immunization: This is the desired result after you receive a vaccine. Your immune system will either develop antibodies or inactivate the disease in your body. This process of immunization can take up to two weeks to work. During this time, it’s important to practice good health habits to avoid getting sick. Other remedies for your immune system are also available to help improve your body’s defenses against various illnesses.
2. Maintain Your Distance
Avoid close contact with people who are sick since the flu can easily be transmitted from one person to another. If you have the flu, keep your distance from others to prevent them from getting sick, too. Refrain from going to crowded areas such as malls or parks to minimize your risk of exposure to flu viruses that may be present in those places.
3. Keep Your Hands Clean
Frequent hand sanitation helps get rid of germs and viruses that you may pick up throughout the day. Avoid putting your hands on frequently touched surfaces especially in public, like door knobs and handrails, since you never know if those are properly and constantly sanitized. Make sure to use soap and water to disinfect your hands, but should it be unavailable, a hand sanitizer will suffice.
4. Practice Proper Etiquette When You Cough or Sneeze
If you need to go out or you’re staying with other people at home, be sure not to cough or sneeze unguarded. Use a handkerchief or tissue, or better yet, wear a mask at all times. Viruses that cause the flu are transmitted via respiratory droplets dispelled in the air whenever you open your mouth. Wearing a mask properly can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.
Remember to practice proper disposal for your mask. Remove it by the straps, tie both ends together, and put it inside a plastic bag before throwing it in the garbage.
Prevention is certainly better than cure. Simple steps such as frequent hand washing, wearing a mask in public, and getting vaccinated are vital tools in reducing the risk of flu virus infection.
While there’s no guaranteed way to completely avoid the flu especially during winter, minimizing your exposure and reducing the risk of infection while practicing healthy habits can help protect you and the people around you from getting sick during the winter season.