Free Falling Into Flu Season

     When you think of winter what all comes to mind? Holiday parties, family gatherings, baking pies and decorating cookies are a few of my winter favorites. This time of year, brings a lot of sweet memories made and also a lot of germs shared. As a healthcare worker at an urgent care, winter time means an increase in sick visits.   Flu season can last anywhere from October until May. Occasionally we see a few before October and some into the summer months. My whole family experienced our first case of the flu last year at Christmas time. It started with my 18-month-old, then my husband, then spread to our family that was in town, and ended with me. Seven out of nine of us came down with the flu that year.  It was one Christmas we will never forget.  Now we know what we can do to stay healthy this flu season and not share our germs.

      Did you know that there are several things you can do to stay healthy during flu season? I am excited to share these with you so that we can all implement them this flu season and hopefully have less cases. One of the tips that I am most excited to share with you is how food can help us stay healthy during flu season. YES, FOOD!!! Good, healthy food of course that is packed with vitamin A, C and E. Foods that are rich in these vitamins are helpful for supporting our immune system. Some examples are broccoli, oranges, green peppers, strawberries, papaya, dark leafy greens, almonds, peanuts, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, oils like sunflower and corn. If you are not a fan of plain veggies then try adding cheese to them or find a yummy dipping sauce.

     Let’s talk PROTEINS. Protein is very important to eat when you are trying to prevent sickness as well as when you are sick. Protein builds strength and provides nutrients that help build your immune system. Vitamins B6 and B12 are powerful immune boosters found in proteins. Some examples are lean meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, potatoes and fish.

     Exercising and getting plenty of rest are things we should be doing on a regular basis but they also are great ways to boost our immune systems. In a recent study reported by Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, scientist found that modest exercise may prevent the elderly from getting colds and flu. Exercising 30 minutes a day is a great way to keep your heart healthy and fight off sickness. It also will help you rest at night. When you do not sleep well your immune system can become compromised and it is easier to get sick.

     A few more tips that you can implement to stay healthy during flu season and every day is to drink plenty of WATER and cut back on SWEETS. A recent study shows that staying hydrated enables your body to do a better job at fighting off viruses. Drink at least eight 8 oz glasses of water a day. Stay away from too many beverages that contain caffeine because they can dehydrate you. The reason we must cut back on our sweets is because sugar breaks down our bodies ability to fight infection. Think about how many sweets a person consumes from the months of October to February. If your sweet tooth is hard to kick then try to curb it with healthier options like having a piece of fruit.

     Washing your hands frequently and changing out your toothbrushes are ways we can cut down the risk of catching germs for the whole family. Try and be conscious when you are out and shaking hands with people, at the store or picking your kids up from daycare.  We keep a bottle of sanitizer in the car so we can sanitize our hands until we get home and can wash them. Flu viruses are spread through droplets from infected people when they sneeze, blow their noses, or wipe secretions from their noses or eyes. Always remember to sneeze into your arm and not on your hands. If you are sick please be polite an opt out of those handshakes. When we are sick we keep our toothbrushes separate.  We also change them out if we are sick and every three months if we are well. Viruses can linger and spread to other toothbrushes so make sure to keep them separate.

     Should I get the flu vaccine? I get asked this question a lot as a healthcare worker. I simply say YES!!!  It is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from getting the virus each year. Make sure that you see your primary care physician or your local urgent care to get the vaccine early on in the season. AppleCare Urgent Care will have flu shots available every day but will have a special on Wednesday’s for $19.99 starting Oct 1, 2018 through January 31, 2019 for Wellness Wednesday. Make sure to find the nearest AppleCare Urgent Care clinics near you so you can get vaccinated.  The CDC recommends getting your vaccine by the end of October. It takes the body 2 weeks to produce antibodies after vaccination to protect your body from infection of the virus.

     Let’s all do our best this flu season to fight off infection by incorporating the tips above. Nobody wants to spend their holidays in the bed recovering from sickness. Remember though that if you do come down with the flu this season take those sick days and get some rest so you do not take the chance of spreading it to others. Also know that you are contagious one day before your symptoms actually start to show so let’s keep those hands washed.  Let’s enjoy this winter free of the flu.