With Julia Harris, BSN, RN, University of Vermont Health Network
Porter Medical Center
For many, the holiday season is a perfect combination of shopping, travel and celebratory gatherings with family and friends.
But those are also perfect opportunities to spread the influenza virus at a time when flu season is nearing its peak. The added stress, fatigue or overindulgence that sometimes accompanies the holidays can exacerbate the risk of getting sick.
The challenge is staying healthy enough to partake of the season’s bounty.
A Key to Preventing Flu
One key to preventing infection of any kind is to adhere to optimal hand-hygiene. With the convenience of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, this easy safeguard can be used liberally, especially after contact with frequently touched surfaces in public areas such as shopping carts, door handles or key pads.
It’s not silly – it’s science.
The Foundation to Preventing Illness
There are many components to maintaining a healthy body, which is the foundation to preventing illness. First, consult with your physician about vaccinations and general health maintenance. A healthy diet with optimal rest and exercise provides your body with the tools needed to function as it was designed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu season peaks in the United States between December and February, but it is tracked from September through early May. While the CDC recommends that people get flu vaccinations in October, the agency also says getting vaccinated anytime during flu season will still be beneficial.
So with the holidays approaching, it’s not too late to get a flu shot. The vaccines are developed to prevent some of the more common flu strains, and this can also lessen the severity of your reaction if you do get sick.
Avoiding Getting Germs and Spreading Them
Beyond the foundation of general health and vaccine support, the next focus is preventing germs from entering your body. Or, if you have become ill, you should take care to prevent your illness from spreading to others.
Again, the simplest and most effective action is hand hygiene before eating or handling food and after touching public surfaces, and of course whenever your hands are potentially contaminated – for instance, after discarding tissues or using the rest room. Touching the “T zone” (meaning your eyes, nose or mouth) with contaminated hands can get you sick.
Also, you should be sure to observe cough etiquette. That means using a tissue, or avoiding hands and coughing into the bend of your elbow if no tissue is available. This should be followed by hand hygiene.
Finally, if you are sick, stay home.
For more information:
Vermont Department of Health flu information: https://www.healthvermont.gov/disease-control/flu
CDC flu vaccination recommendations: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm