The 2017-18 flu season is already “moderately severe” according to the Centers for Disease Control, and with many areas still facing several more weeks or months of winter, it could get worse. Already, about a dozen states have shut down at least some of their schools, as the H3N2 “killer Aussie flu” is widespread in forty-nine states.
A flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the virus, but it often is not enough and, for various reasons, a vaccine is not an option for everyone. So, what are some ways you can stay on your feet and keep moving forward in the midst of one of the worst outbreaks since the Spanish Flu pandemic following World War I?
Avoiding the Flu
An estimated 500 million people got sick between 1918 and 1920, and up to a fifth of them died. Those numbers make the current outbreak look like a case of the sniffles, but the modern flu virus is still extremely dangerous. To avoid getting sick, try some of these lifestyle adjustments:
Keep Your Distance: Stay at least three feet away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing, because that’s about how far infected water droplets can travel before gravity grounds them.
Don’t Touch Your Face: The flu is not a contact virus; people cannot get sick just by touching an infected surface. But as soon as an infected hand goes anywhere near your mouth or nose, the virus often enters the body. To that end. . .
Clean Communal Surfaces: At least once a day, wipe down phone chargers, bathroom sinks, light switches, and anything else that more than one person touches. Surface cleaning is no cure-all so there’s no reason to be obsessive, but it is one of the best preventative measures outside a vaccine.
Close Windows: Opening windows promotes air circulation which reduces your chances of infection, right? Not exactly. There are no measurable benefits in terms of flu prevention, and the discomfort may weaken your immune system and make you more of a target than before.
Also, eat lots of foods, such as meat, with high zinc levels. Citrus fruits have lots of Vitamin C, protein strengthens the immune system, and proper hydration is essential.
What To Do If You Get Sick
Despite all these precautions, there is a pretty good chance you could get sick, especially if you’re exposed to repeated bursts of the flu virus. If that happens:
Don’t Panic: For the most part, nothing good happens when you panic. In fact, stress triggers cortisol release, and this hormone has a number of side-effects that will make your illness worse as well as more long-lasting.
Monitor Your Symptoms: There are a number of accurate digital thermometers to help you monitor your fever. When it subsides, and most of your other symptoms have abated, you are probably no longer contagious.
Stay Home: The flu is not just a bad head cold. It’s a very serious infectious disease that’s likely to be extremely severe in young children, older adults, and other at-risk population groups. Don’t put other people at risk.
If you feel better but are not back full speed yet, the boss will probably be more than happy to send you some stuff to work on at home.
Minimizing the Flu
Here, the news isn’t quite so good. Many common cold and flu remedies are really just cold remedies, as their effectiveness against flu is speculative at best. Furthermore, if you’re exposed to a cold or flu virus again within the next few weeks, your chances of getting sick are much greater.
Instead, call your doctor as soon as you’ve confirmed your symptoms. If you’re at risk for complications, take the risk seriously and follow medical orders. If not, just be prepared to ride it out for a week or so. Drink lots of water, quarantine yourself in your room, watch lots of Netflix, and enjoy “the gift of idle hours” as best you can.