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Easy Ways to Avoid the Flu Virus

Concerned about getting the flu? Influenza, a contagious respiratory illness, can cause mild or serious illness leading to hospitalization or even death. About 80 percent of flu deaths are in people over 65 years of age, but don’t let that number fool you. Even healthy kids and adults can get very sick from the flu and spread it to family and friends. Use these tips to be your own bodyguard during the flu season and avoid getting sick.

Get an annual flu shot: The very best way to prevent flu is to get an annual flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over six months of age get a flu shot. If you do get sick after getting the flu vaccine, your symptoms may actually be much milder.

Avoid close contact with those who are sick: Most experts believe that flu viruses spread largely by droplets made when someone with flu coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can scatter in the air and land on people who are nearby. Whether at home or at work, keep your distance when someone begins to cough, sneeze or complain about a fever or respiratory congestion.

Wash your hands: Wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, before preparing food and eating or any other time of day that you choose. Wash for at least 15 to 20 seconds and dry your hands on a toss-away paper towel to keep bad flu germs away. Teach your family members to do the same.

Keep your fingers off your face: Keep your fingers away from your face and out of your nose, eyes and mouth. This is a quick way to get flu and other viruses – and to pass your illness on to a family member or colleague.

Keep your lifestyle habits healthy: Healthy lifestyle habits can help you avoid getting the flu. For instance, smoking cigarettes or heavy alcohol use can tear down your immune function. Inactivity or poor sleep habits can also negatively affect your immunity against illness. However, a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and good nutrients can help your immune system function properly and reduce the chance of getting the flu or other illness.

Watch what you touch: The flu virus is everywhere so watch what you touch, including restaurant menus, cell phones, computer keyboards and door knobs. When you touch a contaminated surface and then put your hands near your eyes, nose or mouth, your fingers transport the flu germ straight into your body. Flu germs can linger on surfaces for up to eight hours.

So, help fight the flu this year by getting vaccinated – and don’t forget good habits such as proper hand washing, covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing and other healthy habits like sleeping soundly and eating well. If you do get the flu, see your doctor. The CDC recommends fast treatment with influenza antiviral drugs to reduce the risk of complications.

The Queen’s Health Care Centers are located on Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii Island. Learn more about how they can keep you healthy, and treat you when you’re not. The Queen’s Medical Center – West Oahu offers Adult Primary Care for ages 18+. Learn more here