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Beyond Flu Shots: 8 Other Ways to Avoid Influenza

Beyond Flu Shots: 8 Other Ways to Avoid Influenza
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By    |   Thursday, 02 November 2017 11:05 AM

Flu shots are a hit-and-miss proposition. While they can reduce the risk of contracting influenza, they’re not foolproof. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says last season’s version had an effectiveness rate of just 42 percent.

Since 2004, flu vaccine effectiveness has ranged from 10 percent to 60 percent, and only cracked 50 percent four times.

“I still favor the flu shot and get one annually,” says Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “Levels of protection vary year by year but are always, or nearly always, much better than ‘chance.’ At the population level, very imperfect protection still adds up to a major change in herd immunity.”

That said, there are a lot of other things he believes you should do to reduce your risk of catching, or spreading, the flu.

“Many other defenses against flu are valuable and should not be neglected,” Katz tells Newsmax Health. “All aspects of personal and public hygiene make a big difference in containing the spread of all airborne pathogens. Of profound importance is simply taking good care of your general health.”

Here are some tips from Katz and other experts:

Wash your hands: Flu viruses and other germs are everywhere and you can’t help literally picking them up. So wash your hands regularly, recommends the CDC and just about every doctor ever born. It’s important to use soap and water, scrubbing for at least 15 seconds. Opt for a paper towel when drying, since hand dryers are notorious for harboring pathogens. And don’t contaminate your mitts on the faucet or door handle. Use a paper towel to turn off the water and open rest room doors.

Watch where you stick your fingers: Picking your nose and biting your nails are not just bad habits but also provide an easy way for the flu virus to infiltrate your body. Resist the urge to touch your nose, mouth and eyes as much as possible.

Don’t rely on hand sanitizers: Alcohol-based hand sanitizers seem to kill viruses in lab settings but get mixed results in the field. Several studies have found that these sanitizers didn't prevent respiratory infections. If you do use them, pick one that is at least 60 percent alcohol. Experts suggest using sanitizers in a pinch, but a thorough washing with soap and water is a more effective option.

Carry a pen: You wouldn’t use a previous customer’s fork in a restaurant, but chances are you sign your credit card receipt with a pen that’s been handled by many others. So take your own pen wherever you go and keep it handy. You can also use it to hit buttons on things such as elevators and ATMs.

Eat right: Certain nutrients help to fight off viruses. They include vitamins C, D and E, the minerals zinc and selenium, antioxidants such as beta-carotene and quercetin, and probiotics. Eating a varied diet heavy on colorful veggies with some nuts and fermented food will supply most of these immune-boosting nutrients.

Exercise: Cold or nasty weather may tempt you to cut down on physical activity, but that would be a mistake. Studies show that even moderate exercise increases the number of virus-fighting white blood cells. But if you go to a gym, make sure to use an antiseptic wipe on equipment before use.

Sleep well: Many studies show that sleep deprivation impairs immune system function. Researchers say a lack of shuteye can also render a flu shot less effective. Shoot for seven to nine hours of sleep every day.

Ease stress: When we’re stressed, “fight or flight” hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released. While they may help us to outrun a bear, they suppress the immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to the flu virus. Meditation, yoga and a hot bath are just a sampling of things you can do to unwind.

“Eating well, being active, getting enough sleep, avoiding tobacco and other sensible health practices reduce vulnerability to flu,” says Katz. “And they make your body far more capable of recovery if you happen to get sick in spite of it all.”

© 2020 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

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Flu shots are a hit-and-miss proposition, and are not foolproof. But experts say a handful of other strategies can also help you reduce your risk of catching, or spreading, the flu. Here's a primer.
flu, shot, alternative, healthy, virus, cold, influenza
Thursday, 02 November 2017 11:05 AM
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