Every year between October and early spring, this respiratory illness impacts millions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that since 2010 there have been between 9.3 million and 49 million cases of the flu annually.1
Coming down with the flu is not guaranteed. There are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood you and your family will catch it. A good defense is your best weapon this season.
How the flu spreads
Each time someone infected with the flu coughs, sneezes, and even talks, germs are cast into the air and onto nearby surfaces. These “droplets” of flu, as the CDC calls them,2 can make their way directly into your mouth or nose, and can live up to 48 hours on surfaces3 such as desks, door handles, mobile phones, and TV remote controls. If you touch a surface covered in flu droplets then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, you may soon find yourself experiencing any or all of influenza’s symptoms:
- runny or stuffy nose
- sore throat
- body aches
- vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
Avoiding the flu isn’t easy. Your workplace, the kids' school, public transportation, nursing homes, and even your own home put people in close quarters making infection all the more likely. But ease of exposure shouldn’t turn you into a germaphobe. You can protect yourself.
There are several ways to defend yourself against the flu.
- Get a flu shot. The CDC recommends that everyone age six months and older should get a flu shot each year.4 It’s best to get yours at the start of the flu season in September or October. Did you know the flu vaccine is different every year? Scientists develop the vaccine to protect against the three or four influenza strains that research suggests will be most likely to infect people that season.5 But strains change quickly. So, while getting vaccinated is a great defense, it will not make you invincible against the flu and should not be your only one.
- Avoid contact with sick people. This is easier said than done, especially if you’re the main caretaker in your home. If you can’t avoid contact, consider using CURAD Germshield Nitrile Exam Gloves when cleaning the house or tending to an ill loved one. Keeping a bottle of Spectrum Advance Hand Sanitizer Gel nearby and using it after being in contact with an infected person or contaminated surface will help reduce your risk of catching the flu.
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing. This is good advice and etiquette whether or not it’s flu season. It is also a good idea to cover up when someone else is coughing or sneezing to keep flu droplets from landing where you don’t want them. The best way to do this is to use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth then immediately throw it away. If a tissue isn't available, use your upper sleeve by covering your nose and mouth with your elbow.6
- Wash your hands. Washing your hands with soap and water is one of the best ways to keep you and your family from getting sick. You should wash your hands throughout the day especially after touching surfaces that may be covered in flu germs. Spectrum Antibacterial Hand Soap is designed to help kill harmful germs while being gentle enough for everyday use. If soap and water aren't available, you can use hand sanitizer. Keep Spectrum Advance Hand Sanitizer Wipes or Spectrum Hand Sanitizer Gel with you while you're on the go. Both have aloe and vitamin E so they’ll sanitize your hands without leaving them dry and cracked.
- Disinfect surfaces. Micro-Kill+ disinfecting wipes can be used to kill flu germs on surfaces like keyboards, mobile phones, TV remotes and doors. And don’t pass up those free wipes at the grocery store next to the shopping carts. Give the cart handle and any other touchable area a good wipe down before you start shopping.
- Drink plenty of water and eat healthy, balanced meals with lots of vitamins. Try to work in these foods full of immune-boosting vitamins.7
- Pumpkin seeds
- Plain yogurt
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is when bodies and minds recharge. Not having enough can leave you more than drowsy, it can leave you weak and even more susceptible to getting sick. According to the Mayo Clinic,8 the average adult should get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night and the average child (ages 2–17) should get between 9 and 13 hours.
Last year’s flu season was the longest in a decade stretching well into May.9 Scientists can’t predict how long this year’s season will be but one thing is certain: you can defend yourself against getting and spreading the flu. Taking the right precautions ensures you're ready for the fight.