Top 10 Questions About the Flu
9. What can I do to prevent the flu?
Flu and cold viruses are transmitted the same way -- through microscopic droplets from an infected person's respiratory system. That person sneezes or coughs, and droplets are sprayed onto any nearby surface -- or person. If they cough or sneeze into their hands (without a tissue), their hands then carry droplets to surfaces they touch. You touch that surface and pick up the virus. If you rub your eyes or nose, you've just infected yourself.
To help protect yourself and prevent spread of cold and flu viruses:
- Wash your hands frequently. Use an alcohol-based gel if you don't have access to water.
- Cough and sneeze into a tissue or into your hands. Wash your hands afterward.
- When you cough, turn your head away from others.
- If you have a sudden sneeze and no tissue, bend your arm and sneeze into it.
- Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. This prevents germs from entering your body.
- Wash any shared surfaces (like phones and keyboards) frequently. Viruses can live on surfaces for several hours.
- Stay away from crowds during cold and flu season.
- Get a flu vaccine every year. Vaccines don't give you 100% protection from the flu, but they're the best way to prevent flu.
- Eat healthy foods to nourish your immune system, such as dark green, red, and yellow vegetables and fruits.
- Get regular exercise. People who exercise may still catch a virus, but they often have less severe symptoms and may recover more quickly.
Also, regular exercise -- aerobics and walking -- may boost the immune system. People who exercise regularly tend to get fewer colds. They may also recover more quickly than people who do not exercise regularly. Check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
10. If I have allergies, am I more likely to get the flu?
No, allergies don't affect susceptibility to the flu. But people with asthma are more likely to have complications, such as pneumonia, when they get the flu. Also at risk of complications are infants under age 6 months, pregnant women, people with suppressed immune systems, people with diabetes, people with lung disease, people with neurologic disease, people with heart disease, and elderly people.