As you gear up to brave the winter, it’s also time to stay tuned for a new strain of the flu. That’s right, the influenza virus reinvents itself every year, allowing it to catch your immune system off guard. However, there are a number of precautions you can take to reduce your and your family’s risk of infection.
Not to be confused with the stomach flu, influenza is a respiratory illness that occurs when a strain of the virus attacks your system. If you get a mild case, your symptoms might closely mirror those of a common cold: cough, sore throat, congestion, body aches and fatigue. Conversely, your body almost always responds to influenza by running a fever. Here’s why.
In worst-case scenarios, the flu can lead to pneumonia, organ failure, sepsis and even death. Really, it’s a serious virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should seek emergency medical care if you experience difficulty breathing, chest pain, persistent dizziness, seizures, inability to urinate or severe weakness. In children, the following warrants immediate medical attention: fever above 104 F, severe dehydration, seizures, bluish lips or face, trouble breathing, chest pain and extreme listlessness. View a more extensive list on the CDC site.
The CDC says that getting a flu shot is the single most effective method of prevention. In fact, they strongly encourage everyone six months or older to get annual vaccinations since the virus is so contagious. Find your nearest flu clinic here.
As an additional layer of precaution, wash your hands often and avoid touching your facial orifices. Prepare your immune system for a head-on flu attack by getting plenty of sleep, maintaining moderate stress levels and eating citrus fruits, garlic or ginger.
Even if you do get the flu, there’s still hope. Here are a few ways to temper the illness:
- Take an antiviral drug, preferably within the first two days of your illness.
- Your body loses more fluids than normal when you have the flu, so drink plenty of water.
- Fighting the flu takes a lot of energy and drains your body of nutrients. To replenish minerals and protein without taxing your digestive system, sip warm bone or chicken broth.
- Zinc is an especially helpful mineral to take when you’re sick with the flu, as it supports proper immune system function.
- Rinse with warm salt water to soothe a sore throat. This study also shows that rinsing with salt water can prevent the flu.
- Put some tea tree oil in a diffuser or apply a diluted mixture to your skin. According to this study, the essential oil may hinder influenza from spreading.
- Consume antimicrobial herbs, spices and other foods:
- Most importantly, take it easy. Stay home from work. Your employer will take a much bigger productivity loss if you go in and infect everyone else.
The influenza virus may alter its own DNA every year, but you can still outsmart it! Stand guard for its local arrival with the help of this tool called FluView; take preventive measures; and bolster your immune system with extra nutrients and relaxation.