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How to Fight the Flu this February

Flu Free February

Flu season is in full swing, so it’s now more important than ever to protect ourselves and our loved ones from illness. Influenza A and B are the most common forms of the virus, which affects up to 20 percent of the U.S.population each year. The flu leads to millions of outpatient and hospital visits, is a significant burden to the economy, and causes thousands of deaths. The rate of flu-related illness is expected to rise in February. So, what can we do to stay healthy during these cold months? 

In terms of prevention, the best way to protect your body against the flu is receiving a vaccination.  The standard “flu shot” protects against three different viruses. This vaccine causes your body to develop antibodies, which fight against infections and illnesses. Most doctors recommend that patients receive the flu shot in the fall, around October, but it’s not too late to get vaccinated. Even if you do get the flu, being vaccinated can help make your illness shorter and milder. Annual vaccines are generally recommended for most people over the age of 6 months. People who are 65 years and older are also eligible for a higher-dose shot, as this age group is at a high-risk for illness and complications stemming from the flu. When you get vaccinated, you’re helping others who cannot receive the flu shot, like babies and people with severe allergies to the vaccine.

Another key part of preventing the flu is keeping your surroundings and belongings clean. The flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 72 hours and is generally spread through droplets made when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk. It can travel up to six feet and can also be transferred to commonly used things like doorknobs, elevator buttons, and faucets. Children can touch over 600 surfaces over the course of an hour and are already twice as likely to get the flu compared to adults, so disinfecting is a necessary part of the flu season. 

Commonly-found ingredients that have been proven to kill the flu virus include:

  • Chlorine bleach
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Detergents (soap)
  • Iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics)
  • Alcohols
  • Ammonia (non-chlorine)

Standard disinfectants, like sprays or wipes, will do the trick and rid your surroundings of germs. Sprays are great options for large surfaces, like tables, desks, and appliances. Wipes are generally safe for electronics, like phones, computers, and remote controls, which are all breeding grounds for the flu. Heat above 167 degrees F has also beenproven tobe effective. You probably already own plenty of household products that are designed to kill harmful viruses! As always, be careful when using any chemical product around children and remember to read the labels of all household products for proper use and storage directions.  Items like solid plastic toys and stuffed animals can be run through the dishwasher and laundry, respectively. Bedding, blankets, and clothes that have come in contact with someone infected by the flu should be washed in the laundry, as well. Don’t forget your toothbrush! Simply add a little bit of hydrogen peroxide to water and let it soak for thirty minutes before thoroughly rinsing. Staying flu-free doesn’t have to be complicated! It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3... 

  1. Keep your immune system in tip-top shape by maintaining a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and staying hydrated.
  2. Get vaccinated!
  3. Take advantage of effective cleaning products to kill viruses.

For more tips on how to stay healthy during flu season, visit www.stopgerms.org. Learn more about how to safely use household products at www.consumered.org

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