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The Flu Shot: Not the Only Way to Prevent Getting the Flu

Posted Mar 24 2013 10:19am

In the thick of flu season, a common misconception is that getting your annual flu shot is the only way to prevent getting a nasty flu bug. Not so! There are numerous preventative measures one can take in ensuring that you stay healthy this cold and flu season, and we’re here to share them.

Keep it clean. Wash your hands after being in a restroom or public place—anywhere that germs can accumulate.

This also includes gyms. Make sure to wipe down equipment before and after using it, and use a towel where possible as a protective layer between you and your equipment—people have been known to get quite awful infections from gym equipment, like staph and flu. Carrying antiseptic wipes is never a bad idea, though some claim that overly frequent use of these can result in the killing of good bacteria.

Keep your hands away from mucous membranes. Eyes, nose, and mouth should be off-limit to your hands and others' (keep little fingers away). In short, try not to lick your fingers after that delicious lunch, and when holding a baby, don’t let him put his fingers in your mouth. Rubbing your eyes—try not to do it.

Get your rest. Make sure that your immunity is up by getting the right amount of rest. We are far more susceptible to illness when not properly rested.

As Diwakar Balachandran , MD, director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston says, “In simple terms, sleep deprivation suppresses immune system function. The more all-nighters you pull, the more likely you are to decrease your body’s ability to respond to colds or bacterial infections.”

Take your Vitamin C. Another immunity booster is Vitamin C. Make sure you are getting enough of it, whether in the form of citrus fruit or a daily vitamin.

Exercise. Hit the gym or the roads this flu season and stick to that fitness plan.

According to a recent Huffington Post article , “exercise was linked with a 30 to 40 percent decrease in (flu) symptoms, researchers reported, compared with people who did (no) activity.”

Eat garlic (really?). According to this article , eating garlic can truly help with cold prevention.

In fact, the article claims that garlic “has powerful anti-viral, antibiotic and anti-fungal properties and boosts the immune system in general. Studies have shown that those consuming garlic daily are two-thirds less likely to catch a cold.”

So this winter, whether or not you decide to get a flu shot, there are many things you can do to keep yourself healthy and free of the flu. And it’s well worth noting all of them.

As that Huffington Post article we mentioned earlier says, “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pneumonia and flu together are the sixth leading causes of death in the U.S. More than 100,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths occur each year from flu-related complications." While this sounds extreme, it’s a reminder that getting the flu is not always just an inconvenience in life, but can actually be life-threatening. It’s well worth taking care of ourselves with as many preventative measures as we have up our sleeves.

What’s your strategy for staying healthy this flu season? Share it with us!

Cara Aley is a freelance writer who writes about everything from matters of health and wellness to those of reputation management for . She is currently VP of Operations for Two Degrees, a one-for-one food bar company.

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