The flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. In most people, it causes mild symptoms, such as fever, sneezing, headache, and a stuffy nose.
However, in young children, the elderly, and people who are immunocompromised, the flu can lead to serious complications. Patients suffering from obesity, asthma, heart disease, and lung problems are also at risk for developing serious complications.
The flu spreads easier during cold weather because our ability to produce mucus in our nose, which is a natural defense against viruses, is slowed down by lower temperatures. Another hypothesis on why viruses spread easier during the cold season is poor ventilation indoors, as most people keep their windows shut and their heaters turned on.
Below, we asked our experts at Bethel Family Medicine about the best ways to prevent the flu during the cold season.
The best way to prevent the flu is to get your yearly vaccine. Every year, scientists make predictions on which strain is more likely to be dominant during the flu season and design a vaccine to train immune systems to fight a particular strain of influenza.
Protection from a flu vaccine starts about two weeks after vaccination and lasts anywhere between six and eight months. Anyone can benefit from the vaccine regardless of their health status or age. Infants as young as six months old can be vaccinated as well.
The flu is transmitted through droplets, and the best way to avoid these droplets is to avoid contact with people who cough, sneeze, or have a stuffy nose.
Frequent hand-washing, especially after going shopping or visiting areas with a lot of traffic, is a must. If you can’t wash your hands, you may benefit from using hand sanitizer.
Your hands are constantly touching areas that other people have touched. Bacteria and viruses are everywhere, but by avoiding touching your nose and mouth, you can prevent these harmful microbes from entering your body.
A diet high in processed foods not only increases your risk for weight gain but may also cause immune dysfunction. Processed foods are often high in calories, unhealthy fats, and sugars, yet don’t provide all the micronutrients necessary to maintain optimal function of the immune system.
Our experts offer immunizations for patients of all ages and recommend seeking medical advice if you contract the flu, especially if you’re pregnant, suffering from chronic diseases, or taking medications that suppress the immune system.
Children under the age of five and the elderly also benefit from medical advice if they suffer from the flu, even if their symptoms are mild. Get peace of mind by scheduling an appointment to get your yearly immunization or receive personalized care for your symptoms.