The beginning of fall is one of the best times of the year. The heat starts to fade, sweaters are back in wardrobe rotation, and the office workload lightens up a bit now that everybody's back from vacation. Unfortunately, it's also the start of flu season. The good news is that you can take precautions to keep yourself healthy and happy throughout the fall.
Dr. Lawrence Herman, director of primary-care initiatives at the New York Institute of Technology's department of physician-assistant studies, says, "Most importantly, get a flu shot. This dramatically cuts down on the chances you, your family or your co-workers will get the flu. Because of changes in insurance regulations, most people with insurance will not even pay a co-pay for a visit to their health-care provider. You can even get a flu shot in most pharmacies."
Prevention is the best defense
Dr. Matilde Parente, a physician, author and biomedical-safety consultant who is board-certified in pathology and integrative holistic medicine, offers these tips for flu prevention:
- Avoid touching doorknobs, handles, sink controls, levers or switches of any kind. Use your sleeve, tissue or anything that puts a barrier between a possibly contaminated surface and your hand.
- Make a conscious effort to keep your hands away from your face, particularly your mouth, eyes and nose. Keep your hands below the neck at all times, unless you've just washed them.
- Cough or sneeze into your inner elbow, but wash your hands afterward anyway. You might have touched them before you sneezed.
- You are most infectious just before flu symptoms become visible. As soon as you start to feel off, be extra careful about not contaminating common surfaces, such as keyboards and door handles.
While these tips are helpful during flu season, they also apply to the rest of the year. Dr. Raza Hussain, a hospitalist specializing in adult inpatient medicine, says, "Any time of year is a time when you can catch something and get sick, which is why it's important to minimize your chances. Quitting smoking, getting annual flu vaccines, avoiding people that are sick if possible, taking medications as prescribed, taking a multivitamin, washing your hands and keeping your immune system strong are all ways to proactively avoid getting sick."
Stay home when sick
"If you are sick, please stay home," Herman says. "Many people think they just have a cold when, in fact, they have a mild flu, and they come to work. In a case like this, they are shedding the flu virus while at work and potentially infecting everyone around them. While you may have a mild form of flu, others can still get very, very sick from you."
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