We all know the feeling. When your whole body aches to the bone. Your head hurts. You have cold chills and hot flushes. Your throat feels like it’s made of razor blades and you can barely swallow.
It’s influenza, or ‘the flu’ as it’s more commonly known.
Flu viruses can survive for an hour or more in enclosed environments and as long as eight hours on surfaces, which means we can pick up the virus even if we haven’t been near someone who is sick. We can also spread the virus even before we are showing symptoms.
Sometimes people confuse the flu with a common cold – but don’t be mistaken; the flu virus packs a far heftier punch. The flu can cause severe illness and sometimes life-threatening complications for people in high risk groups.
Whether you have the flu or a nasty cold, getting sick can be debilitating and disruptive to your life. Here are some simple tips to help avoid getting sick this flu season.
The number one thing you can do to prevent getting the flu – and passing it on to others – is to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine protects against the most common viruses each season and reduces your chance of getting sick. Even if you are unlucky enough to fall ill after having the flu vaccine, the severity and duration of your illness will most likely be reduced.
Some employers offer the flu vaccine to all employees. If this is not an option for you, you can visit your local doctor or immunisation provider. The flu shot is now available from many chemists and some even offer an online booking system.
Getting vaccinated is extremely important for people who are at risk of complications and for those in contact with other people who are at risk. People who are at risk include:
For more information on people who are at risk of complications, visit the Flusmart website.
Being diligent with your personal hygiene is a very simple but highly effective way of protecting yourself from colds and flu.
Wash your hands. A lot. Even if they don’t look or feel dirty. Other than getting a flu shot, washing your hands is the best way to prevent getting sick and this also limits the spread of colds and flu. Just running your hands under water isn’t enough to get rid of the virus. Use soap and water and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
As a guide, sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice while you thoroughly wash the backs of your hands, between your fingers, your fingertips and under your nails. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as this is how germs are introduced to the body after we have unwittingly touched a contaminated surface or infected person.
Wherever possible, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces that may have been contaminated with germs like the flu. These include doorknobs, remote controls, taps, keyboards and phones.
Flu viruses are extremely contagious, so try to avoid close contact with sick people. Sometimes this can be difficult when you use public transport or work in an office environment where people who are sick continue to commute and go to work, but try to distance yourself as much as you can.
If you can’t completely avoid people who are showing cold or flu like symptoms, minimise your contact with them. Don’t shake hands with business associates who are obviously unwell, and avoid kissing and hugging friends and family members who are sick.
If someone in your household is sick, minimise your contact with them as much as you can. Avoid sharing items like towels and washcloths. If it’s possible, create a sick room for that person to stay in while they get better. It’s also a good idea to allocate a separate bathroom for them.
If it’s not possible for them to stay in a separate room or use their own bathroom, ensure that towels, bedding and toothbrushes are kept separate. Do not share eating utensils or food and drink.
Another contributing factor to preventing colds and flu is maintaining your general health and well-being. Take good care of yourself by eating lots of fresh, nutritious food; minimising alcohol; getting plenty of sleep; and exercising regularly to keep your body in tip-top shape.
If you are not taking care of your basic health from day-to-day, your body will not be functioning at its best to fight off the germs it may come into contact with.
There are some natural supplements they may help boost your immune system and assist in minimising the severity and duration of colds and flu. Talk to your doctor, chemist, health food store or naturopath for advice on what might work for you.
In our hectic, fast-paced lives in busy cities, sometimes becoming sick is unavoidable. Colds and flu are mainly spread by direct contact, so if you are unfortunate enough and become ill, stay at home so that you don’t spread your illness to others. Don’t go back to work until at least 24 hours after your fever has gone – unless you’re going to the doctor, or picking up other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of fever reducing medicines.
Minimise the spread of germs by continuing the practice of thoroughly washing your hands frequently and wiping down surfaces you have touched. When a sick person coughs or sneezes, droplets can travel six feet or more. Make sure you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze. Use disposable tissues, rather than a handkerchief (where the virus might stay active).
Throw the tissue in a bin straight away – don’t put it in your pocket or handbag where you will carry the germs around with you – and wash your hands immediately afterwards. If you don’t have a tissue handy, sneeze into the inside your elbow, rather than your hand. This means fewer germs will end up on your hands which will reduce the spread by touching other people and surfaces.
No one likes being sick and sometimes becoming ill is unavoidable – but by minimising the risk factors, your visit to Australia will hopefully be a healthy one!