A Common-sense Approach To a Flu-free Season

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Prevent the spread of the flu

While the best way to prevent influenza usually is to get a flu vaccination each fall, the next-best prevention measure is something people don't even need to look into their medicine cabinets to find: Basic common sense.

"Paying attention to your daily interactions with others and to personal behaviors during flu season could very well be your best defense," said Margaret Spear, director of Penn State's University Health Services. Spear explained that the influenza virus typically spreads from person to person in respiratory droplets caused by coughing and sneezing.

Of course, completely avoiding people who are sick might work to prevent illness, but complete avoidance is not usually feasible or even desirable, especially where sad, stuffy-nosed loved ones are concerned.

"Every day, we come into contact with a variety of people - from the bank teller, to a co-worker, to our family or other household members," said Spear. "There are a few simple things you can do to minimize your vulnerability and to lessen the likelihood of transmitting illness to others if you are ill."

Simple, common-sense guidelines include staying home when coughing or sneezing a great deal or if a fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit accompanies the illness. Additionally, using a tissue to cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing is another easy, but often easily forgotten, way of impeding the spread of the flu.

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Even something as basic as hand-washing can be an effective precautionary measure, especially after contact with someone who is ill.

Although the flu virus usually broadens its reach through person-to-person contact, sometimes people become infected by touching an object with flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose. So, again, practicing good hygiene through frequent hand-washing is a very important way to protect oneself from the flu.

Good old soap and hot water is a very effective way of cleaning the hands, but for those who aren't near a sink throughout the day, carrying a waterless, antibacterial solution for convenient disinfection is a good idea.

Reducing vulnerability to flu also includes some very basic lifestyle issues like getting enough sleep and eating properly.

"There are times in all of our lives when we skimp on sleep, but flu season shouldn't be one of them," said Spear. "Eat healthy, balanced meals and drink more fluids. And don't forget regular exercise. Be as healthy as you can be as flu season approaches."

For helpful hints on dealing with influenza this season, visit University Health Services at http://www.sa.psu.edu/uhs/

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