- Get a flu shot. The CDC recommends that you get a flu vaccination every year. Most pharmacies offer the flu shot for people ages 14 and older; younger children can get the shot from their pediatrician. After December, many places run out of the vaccine, so don’t wait until it is too late. Some argue that the flu shot doesn’t always keep you from getting the flu, but take heart, even if you do catch the flu after having gotten the vaccine, the odds are that your symptoms will be less severe…and you’ll be less miserable.
- Wash your hands. Frequent hand-washing, especially before you eat, is one of the easiest ways to avoid spreading the flu virus. This is extremely important for children, who need to be trained to wash their hands on a regular basis. And good old soap is a must. I tell my kids that running a little bit of water of their hands just gives the flu bugs a bath, making them nice and clean for when they attack my kids’ immune systems!
- Is it a cold or the flu? First, know the differences in symptoms between a cold and the flu. Take a look at this chart from WebMD to compare the symptoms.
- Rest and more rest. Unless you are at high risk of developing complications, the best thing to do is stay home, rest, and drink plenty of fluids. Monitor your fever, but remember that a fever is your body’s natural defense against the illness. The Mayo Clinic has published this quick guide for treating a fever according to a person’s age.
- Yes, chicken soup. As cliched and trite as it sounds, chicken soup actually does help. It contains an amino acid called cysteine that is released when the chicken is cooked, and it blocks the migration of inflammatory white cells into the bronchial tubes. And adding garlic or onions helps to boost your body’s immune system to fight off the virus. Take a look at these nine power foods that boost immunity, over on Prevention, for additional ideas.
- Play it safe. If you are at high risk (people with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly and young children), then get to the doctor as soon as you begin to show signs of the flu. Your physician can give you an antiviral drug that will minimize the severity of the illness and potentially keep you out of the hospital. The drug works best if given within the first 48 hours. The CDC has a page on its site to help you find out if you are at high risk.