How to avoid getting sick this winter
Bonfires, cozy sweaters, hot cocoa and changing leaves are all things we may associate with the fall weather. But it is also flu season, where a contracted virus can cause a sore throat, followed by fever, body aches and headaches.
Dr. Christopher Hughes, an Advocate Medical Group family medicine physician at Advocate Eureka Hospital in Eureka, Ill., says the flu season usually lasts from December thru the beginning of April, and once you contract the flu it can generally last four to seven days.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the single best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine, as it helps lessen the chance of contracting it. “Vaccines are effective for at least 6-8 months and are effective within 10 to 14 days of vaccination,” says Dr. Hughes.
In order to keep influenza out of public places and to keep those with compromised immune systems healthy, Dr. Hughes stresses that, with rare exceptions, “everyone 6 months and older needs to get vaccinated annually.” The CDC recommends talking to your doctor first if you have an allergy to eggs or any of the other contents of the vaccine, or if you have ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
Some believe that the flu vaccine will give them the flu, a popular misconception. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, there are some potential side effects to the vaccine, including soreness, redness, swelling at the injection site, or even low-grade fever and fatigue. However, the viruses in the vaccine are inactivated, helping to protect your body against exposure to the activated virus. Therefore, you cannot contract the flu from the vaccine.
In addition to the vaccine, Dr. Hughes offers some good hygiene practices and proper etiquette that can help prevent spreading germs:
Dos and Don’ts
- Do wash your hands often and thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Don’t just rinse them. If you find that you are not near a sink, keep hand sanitizer on hand.
- Do try to avoid touching your mouth, eyes or nose, as this is the quickest way for germs to enter your body. Don’t touch your face!
- Do cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or your inner elbow. Don’t just spray into the air; this enables germs to spread.
- If you do get the flu, do try to stay home and contact your doctor. Don’t knowingly get others sick.
- Do take care of your body. Get proper rest, eat healthy and exercise. This will help keep the immune system strong and healthy to fight against infection. Don’t disregard your health.
If you find that you are following the rules but others aren’t, there are ways you can politely remind them. A simple statement will do, such as, “Would you mind covering your mouth when you cough? Thanks.”
If we each do our part in taking preventive measures, together we can fight the spread of germs and decrease the effectiveness of the flu.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.