The 2012-2013 flu season is officially here and is off to its earliest start in almost a decade. Health officials reported last week that the primary strain circulating tends to make people sicker than other types and is particularly hard on the elderly. In fact, 2003 was one of the most lethal seasons in the past 35 years (48,000 deaths) and now this year’s flu symptoms are being compared to the dominant type of symptoms from almost a decade ago.
Although an estimated 112 million Americans have been vaccinated so far, many who have not taken the proper precautions could experience fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. To keep you and others from getting the flu this year, here are 5 simple tips to help protect your health and well-being this flu season:
1. Get Vaccinated: First and foremost, get vaccinated! This year, the CDC recommends flu vaccinations for everyone 6 months of age and older. There are 2 types of vaccines – the flu shot (for healthy people 6 months and older) and the nasal spray (for healthy and non-pregnant woman, ages 2-49).
You can get a flu shot at your doctor’s office or perhaps your local health department, pharmacy or employer. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu, so give yourself plenty of time before you leave for your trip. Check out the CDC’s Influenza Vaccine Information Statement for more information.
2. Cover Up: Don’t forget to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing. It’s best to sneeze or cough into a tissue or handkerchief, but if those aren’t available, use the crook of your elbow. Also, keep your hands off your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth, to avoid getting germs in these sensitive areas where they can easily spread.
3. Keep Your Distance: Avoid people who are visibly sick. If someone around you is sneezing or coughing, turn your head away, or even cover your mouth and nose. This is especially important in tight spaces like elevators, airplanes and when using ground transportation.
4. Stay Sanitized: As often as possible, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds – the time it takes to hum the song “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end twice. If warm water and soap are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. When traveling, it’s also a good idea to use a disinfectant wipe on the airplane’s seatback tray, as well as on germy places that you may encounter, such as the remote control, light switches, and door knobs in your hotel room.
5. Practice Healthy Habits: Things like getting plenty of exercise and sleep, drinking plenty of water, following a nutritious diet, and controlling your stress levels can go a long way in preventing the flu. A healthy body strengthens your immune system and is more likely to fend off illness.
We hope these prevention tips help keep your travels flu-free this season. For even more healthy travel tips, check out these following resources: