It's autumn. Time to put together the perfect Halloween costume, buy those plane tickets for Thanksgiving and start saving your pennies for the holiday shopping spree. So make room for candy corn, mashed potatoes... and oh, the flu.
Sounds like a pretty unwelcome house guest, right? Well, the flu doesn't usually make reservations. Much of the time, the nasty bug simply takes advantage of our forgetfulness and, yes, laziness. In other words, Mr. Forgets-to-Wash-His-Hands meets Ms. Influenza, and BAM!, here comes runny noses, sweaty fevers and sleepless nights.
The best was to avoid seasonal flu is by getting a flu shot, which is highly recommended. However, there's a number of other things you can do to protect yourself. Here's a few tips:
1. Call in sick: Your co-workers will thank you
Most of us have been guilty of going to work or school when we've been sick because of an upcoming important deadline or a big test. However, we are not setting the best example and, in fact, we could be causing more harm than good by giving the flu to a co-worker. Staying home when you are sick will be especially important if and when a flu pandemic or an outbreak of another infectious disease occurs, so we should all take this opportunity to practice.
How long do you need to stay at home? According to our top health officials, most healthy adults may be able to get others sick a day before they even start showing symptoms and up to five days after becoming sick. So, if you are not feeling well, be a thoughtful co-workers and stay home. Curling up in front of your TV or with a good book isn't the worst way to spend a day or two, right?
2. Rub a dub dub . . . wash your hands!
Wash your hands often, long enough and with warm water and soap. Wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song all the way through twice (about 20 seconds). If it helps, don't be afraid to sing aloud in the bathroom or kitchen! For more tips on handwashing, visit http://getreadyforflu.blogspot.com/2006/08/for-pandemic-flu-prevention-best.html.
3. Say it, don't spray it
Why is covering your cough or sneeze so important? Because people with the flu can easily pass it along to others. Also, people can catch the flu by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouths or noses. It's best to protect yourself and others, so cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
By getting a flu shot and following these tips, there's a much better chance that you will be sharing your holidays with pumpkins and eggnog instead of tissues and cold medicine.