This year, flu season seems to be worse than ever, and has reached epidemic proportions in 26 states. So what can you do to protect yourself and your family against the flu?
The number one best thing to do is get vaccinated. The vaccine is designed to prevent against the most common strains of flu viruses going around this season. If you were vaccinated last year, it won’t keep you protected this year because the influenza virus changes so quickly. But unfortunately, there are several flu myths that keep people from getting the flu shot each year.
Myth #1 – Getting the vaccine can give you the flu.
The flu vaccine only contains dead viruses, so it can’t actually give you the flu. One reason this myth has persisted so long is because sometimes people are already infected with the flu by the time they get the vaccine. Or they catch a cold or another illness with similar symptoms. In addition, it takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to fully be effective. And finally, the vaccine only protects against the most common strains, not every strain out there.
Myth #2 – There’s no treatment for the flu.
Luckily for flu sufferers, there are two great treatments: Tamiflu and Relenza. While they can’t cure the flu or kill the flu virus, if taken within 24 hours of symptoms appearing, they can stop the virus from replicating. This can cut a few days off of your suffering and make you less contagious. However, contrary to what some people may think, antibiotics are not a flu treatment. As a virus, the flu is unaffected by antibiotics which are meant for bacterial infections.
Myth #3 – You can only get the flu when it’s cold outside.
While it may be true that more people come down with the flu when it’s winter, flu season can last from October to May. In some of the southern states, it’s already in the 70s and 80s, but the flu epidemic rages on. So even if you think it might be too late to get the vaccine, it’s still a good idea to protect yourself.
In addition to the vaccine, a few simple habits can keep you flu-free. Make sure to wash your hands often with warm water and soap and use hand sanitizer when you can’t. Avoid touching your nose, mouth, or eyes (the virus needs an opening to get into your system).
Also, learn to do the vampire sneeze! When you sense a sneeze coming on, sneeze into your elbow instead of your hands. Teach this to children by having them pretend they are a vampire with a cape, mysteriously covering their faces. While it may be strange at first, once you do it a few times, it will become second nature.
Also, make sure to keep your house clean and sanitary. Wipe down surfaces that get touched often, such as doorknobs, phones, light switches, faucets, and computer keyboards. You may also want to look into filters, such as our mod air purifier, which can capture bacteria.