To prevent flu -- or any illness -- you've
got to stick with a healthy lifestyle.
"I really believe your immune system takes care of a lot of things," says
Erica Brownfield, MD, a professor of internal medicine at Emory University
School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Even if you've been exposed to the flu, you
don't have to get it."
If you're one of those people who brag, come flu season, that you
"never, ever get sick," be aware: The odds may catch up to you. Every
year, about 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get influenza, according to estimates
from the CDC.
Taking certain antiviral drugs within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms can
shorten the duration of the flu, but that involves recognizing you have the
flu, getting in touch with your doctor, and going to the pharmacist before the
48 hours is up.
Just in case your...
The best flu prevention strategy is
basic -- good nutrition, regular exercise, and enough sleep, she tells WebMD. "You can
also wash hands frequently, and avoid people who have the flu. But really, it's
hard to prevent contact with germs. Keeping yourself healthy is generally the
best defense against the flu."
Making It Work Every Day
Eat your vegetables. A well-nourished immune system is better able
to fight off infections. It's got to be fueled with natural vitamins and
antioxidants found in healthy foods. Eat dark-green, red, and yellow vegetables
and fruits. They're packed with numerous antioxidants, plus vitamins A, C, E,
Exercise regularly. Every time you walk or run, you're boosting your
body's immunity, the natural defense against viruses. A daily 30-minute walk --
or three 10-minute walks -- is the minimum you need. Doing more provides
greater health benefits.
Get plenty of sleep. Most adults need about 7 to 8 hours sleep.
Teens need more -- about 9 hours daily. Growing kids need from 10 to 12 hours
Reduce stress. Some stress is good, but know when to relax. Too much
stress impairs the immune system.
"There are no guarantees," says Robert Schwartz, MD, chairman of family
medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine. "You can do all these
things, lead an absolutely healthy lifestyle, and still get sick. But if you're
healthy and your immune system is working, it's possible to avoid getting the
flu. At least, you will be sick less often anyway."
SOURCES: Erica Brownfield, MD, professor of internal medicine, Emory
University School of Medicine, Atlanta. Robert Schwartz, MD, chairman, family
medicine, University of Miami School of Medicine. CDC: "Stopping the Spread of
Germs at Home, Work, & School" and "Good Health Habits for Preventing