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Flu season, which runs from autumn to winter in the United States, can be a nasty time. A respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the nose, the mouth, and even the lungs, the flu virus can either be a mild sickness for some, but a serious and fatal one for others.

Some symptoms of the flu, such as a runny nose, coughs, headaches, and fevers, can appear days after the flu virus has entered the body. A person sick with flu can be contagious even before these symptoms appear, and he or she can also spread or pass the virus along even days after the immune system has fought off the sickness.

There are many ways to protect oneself from the flu. These are a mixture of healthy habits that should be done even when it is not the flu season.

  • Get a flu vaccination. A flu vaccine is a single, most effective way of protecting yourself from the flu virus. It can be administered to anyone who is over 6 months of age and should be received every year. Contrary to wrong beliefs, a flu shot will not lead to sickness. Instead, it teaches your immune system how to fight off the potential flu virus with a weakened version or component of the virus. Check with your doctor about receiving your flu shot early in the season.
  • Practice good hand hygiene and develop it as a habit. Washing your hands with soap and warm water is a crucial way to protect yourself from the flu. In case water and soap are not available, you can use an alcohol-based sanitizer or hand rub. It is essential to develop these as habits to help prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria. Try to keep an alcohol-based sanitizer with you at all times. A small bottle that can fit in your bag or pocket can be useful, especially if you go outside.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, or mouth. A person can catch the flu if they touch an object that is contaminated with the flu virus, then proceeds to touch his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. You can prevent getting sick by avoiding touching your face. If you should, make sure that your hands are clean first.
  • Cover your nose and mouth, especially when coughing or sneezing. The flu virus is often spread through droplets that are expelled when a sick person is coughing, sneezing, or even talking. When you are sick, make sure to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, especially when sneezing or coughing. Dispose of the used tissue properly and clean your hands afterward. If tissues are unavailable, you can sneeze or cough in the crook of your elbow or your upper sleeve.
  • Avoid people who are sick. Since the flu is highly contagious, you should best avoid people who are already sick. In the same manner, if you are sick, stay at home and limit your interactions with people. Make sure that you are not sharing things, such as towels and utensils, with others to avoid the virus from being passed around. When you get sick, make sure to get plenty of rest.
  • Disinfect and clean surfaces. Since the flu virus can infect a person who has touched contaminated surfaces, cleaning and disinfecting objects that are often touched is one way to prevent getting the flu. These surfaces include doorknobs, keyboards, light switches, and even phones. Make sure that you have enough supply of tissues, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disinfectant sprays to make cleaning a more natural habit.
  • Eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of fluids. Eating the right and drinking lots of fluids can keep many sicknesses at bay, not just the flu. Your body’s best line of defense is your immune system, so make sure to keep it strong by getting the right nutrients. Eat fruits and vegetables, take vital vitamins, and drink plenty of water to flush out toxins in your system.
  • Be physically active and get plenty of sleep. By being healthy, you can easily ward off sicknesses as they come. Build your immunity by getting at least seven hours of sleep every night. Get moving and maintain a regular work out—even an exercise routine for at least 30 minutes thrice a week can help boost your immune system.

The best way to prevent getting the flu is by receiving a flu vaccine. Garnet Health Doctors can provide you with your flu shot at any upcoming appointments including at your visit to our Urgent Care, Primary Care or Specialty Care practices. To schedule a visit, please call 845-333-7575.

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Joseph Chavez Carey, MD, FAAFP
By Joseph Chavez Carey, MD, FAAFP
Primary Care Medical Director, Garnet Health Doctors

Primary Care Medical Director Dr. Chavez Carey is Board-certified in Family Medicine. He received his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine and completed his internship and residency at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in California. Dr. Chavez Carey sees patients of all ages – including kids – and is fluent in Spanish. He is a Castle Connolly 2018-2019 Top Doctor and was ranked as the 2018 Favorite Doc by Hudson Valley Parent.

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