<!–[CDATA[If it seems like you develop a case of the flu or a nasty cold more often during the holidays, you aren’t alone. From shopping in crowded malls to attending family gatherings and office parties, we are all exposed to the virus more than we realize during the holiday season.
It just isn’t practical to try to avoid people during this time of year so you don’t get sick. Your best course of action is to take steps to keep the flu bug at bay.
5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Getting the Flu during the Holidays
- Get a flu shot: Experts say receiving the influenza vaccine is one of the best ways to prevent the flu. Because the virus is a little different every year, the vaccine is different too. That’s way you need an annual flu shot. If you haven’t had yours this year, make it a priority to do so. It takes a few weeks for your immunity to build up so getting vaccinated early can protect you better during peak season.
- Practice good self-care: During the holidays when your schedule is busier than ever, it’s easy to let self-care go by the wayside. Party food, cocktails, and a lack of exercise can take a toll on your health. This is especially true if you are a busy caregiver for a senior loved one. A rundown immune system can make you more vulnerable to the virus. During flu season, it’s important to sleep 7- 8 hours each night, follow a healthy diet, and get exercise. These three self-care practices can help keep your immune system strong.
- Limit personal contact: While it might feel uncomfortable, avoiding personal contact at holiday events can lower your risk for picking up a bug. The influenza virus is highly contagious and easily transmitted. Hugs and handshakes can expose you to it. If you feel self-conscious limiting personal contact, explain that you think you may have been exposed to the flu and you don’t want to pass it on. People will appreciate that.
- Wash your hands often: Washing your hands with warm, soapy water helps to kill any viruses you’ve been exposed to. A rule of thumb is to sing a chorus of Yankee Doodle Dandy to yourself. When you finish the chorus, chances are you’ve scrubbed away any bugs that might have been transferred to you. For the times you won’t have access to soap and water, keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse or glove compartment.
- Avoid touching your face: Most of us don’t realize how many times a day we touch our face. If you have been exposed to the virus and have it on your hands, a quick scratch of the nose or rubbing the eyes can increase your risk for developing the flu. Try to make a conscious effort not to touch your face during flu season.
Finally, if you feel like you might be coming down with the flu, call your doctor as soon as the first symptoms appear. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are antiviral medications your doctor can prescribe that help lessen the severity of flu symptoms and shorten the length of time you are sick. But this medication must be administered early to be effective.
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