Influenza or the flu is a highly contagious ailment and it can also turn fatal on occasion. Thankfully, it can be prevented by implementing some simple tips. Even though the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination as the best flu prevention method, it is not 100 % effective and needs to be supplemented by other preventive measures to protect oneself and others from this infection and control its spread.
Flu Prevention – Seven Crucial Tips
Wash Your Hands Properly
The influenza virus may remain alive outside the human body for 2 – 8 hours and and it is usually transmitted through the hands or the nose of an infected person. This happens either when a patient releases infectious viruses to the surroundings while sneezing or coughing, or touches a door knob or any other objects with his hands after they have been infected by the influenza virus.
When a healthy individual comes in contact with the contaminated object, he may obtain the infection. For this reason, it is critical to wash hands frequently and rigorously for up to 15 seconds, with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizers. Always avoid touching your nose, mouth, or your eyes without washing your hands properly.
Cover Your Mouth And Nose When You Cough Or Sneeze
Influenza spreads through air, so you must always cover your nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing so as to prevent the influenza virus from being transmitted to your surroundings through respiratory droplets. You can also use tissues instead, but ensure that tissues once used must be properly disposed.
Get The Annual Flu Vaccine
The most important measure in flu prevention is getting the flu vaccine administered. The flu vaccine can be taken by adults, and children older than 6 months. The vaccine is available as an injection (flu shot) and as a nasal spray (flu mist). The nasal spray vaccine can be taken by children older than 5 years, adolescents, and adults younger than 49 years of age.
Certain people belong have higher chances of acquiring influenza. These people include:
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than 5 years of age
- Adults older than 65 years of age
- People with underlying medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and lung or heart disease
- Health care workers
These people who belong to the high risk group should receive the flu vaccination to reduce the severity of complications in case they do contract the flu.
Influenza viruses are subjected to high mutation rates (change structure frequently) and as a result, no vaccine can give long lasting protection from them. The World Health Organization formulates the flu vaccine every year depending upon the specific strain that is circulating during the flu season.
Stay Away From Crowded Places
Influenza is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person. According to CDC, once you catch the flu, you must stay at home till you get well or for at least 24 hours till your fever has subsided without the help of antipyretics (fever reducing medicines). If children have influenza, they must not be sent to school to prevent the spread of the infection. Adults should also stay back from work if they have the flu. It is better for you to avoid crowded places like public gatherings or public transport during peak flu season to lessen the chances of acquiring the infection.
Avoid Close Contact With Infected Individuals
Avoid close contact with individuals infected with influenza as it increases the risk of acquiring flu. Isolating flu patients reduces the risk of the transmission of the disease, both in hospitals and at home. If coming in contact with an infected individual is inevitable, ensure that you wear a mask of some sort.
Take Preventive Medication
Drugs are also available for flu prevention. If you’re a health care worker or a caretaker who is in constant contact with flu patients, or a laboratory personnel who deals with flu samples routinely, it is recommended that you take preventive medication. This ensures that your chances of getting the influenza infection are lowered. None of the medicines give long term protection from influenza, but they help in preventing the infection in 70 – 90 % of cases. Preventive medication also helps in preventing flu complications.
Maintain High Levels Of Hygiene
It is important to maintain good hygienic practices and take everyday precautions to keep the flu at bay. Here are some basic tips for hygiene:
- Use disinfectants to clean surfaces and objects as they might be contaminated with the flu virus
- Avoid spitting on roads
- Protect your health
- Manage stress
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Drink lots of water
- Eat healthy
By following these flu prevention measures, you decrease your chances of being attacked by the flu virus. As influenza is quite infectious and sometimes fatal, your best bet is to prevent the condition instead of fighting its complications at a later date.