avoid fluWith the changing of the seasons comes reminders that you may be vulnerable to the sniffles. If your kids are back at school and surrounded by classmates who don’t practice stellar hygiene habits or you’ve got a coworker who can’t seem to stay home when they’re feeling under the weather, you might wonder what you can do to boost your immunity and stave off the dreaded flu this year. Here are some important tips to keep in mind.

Get the Vaccine Now

While vaccinations are still a hot-button issue, the fact is that they do save lives. Vaccines prevent more than 2.5 million unnecessary deaths every year. And considering that 20,000 Americans die from the flu every year and 130,000 are hospitalized due to influenza complications, a simple shot can do a lot.
Yet, some still choose not to get one due to anxiety, misinformation, forgetfulness, or laziness — and that’s a decision that can have serious consequences. Even if you, a healthy adult, are able to fight off the flu with no issues, failing to get vaccinated can leave other people extremely vulnerable to the damage this illness can cause. There are those who are physically unable to receive vaccines, and by not getting vaccinated yourself, you’re putting those individuals in danger if you were to pass on the flu to them. Besides which, no one wants to suffer through the flu! Regardless of your age or your health, you’re going to be absolutely miserable at best and could be hospitalized at worst. The flu should not be taken lightly; the CDC and other health agencies urge all those who can to get the vaccine. As we head into October, this is the time to get it — so make sure to make it a priority for your family.

Eat Healthy, Hydrate, and Exercise

Aside from the vaccine, you can boost your immunity and strengthen your ability to fight off the flu (as well as the common cold) in other ways. Maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits, veggies, and anti-viral foods (such as fish, citrus, and garlic) can certainly help. Staying active will help your body flush out and kill bacteria and viruses — and will help keep seasonal depression at bay, to boot. Frequent hydration can also assist in that regard. Around 75% of all North Americans are considered to be chronically dehydrated, but the more moisture you can add to your body, the better off you’ll be.

Sleep and De-Stress

Sleep is one of the best ways to boost your immunity and help your body fight off bacterial threats. If you don’t get enough shut-eye, your immune system will suffer and you’ll be more vulnerable to colds and other illnesses. Aim for eight hours of sleep a night and stick to a regular bedtime schedule. (There are apps for that!) And although eliminating stress completely may not be an option for most of us, it’s important to try to reduce it when we can. When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to run ourselves ragged and get sick. Even just a little meditation session at the end of each day can work wonders.

Become a Frequent Hand-Washer

Another recommendation from U.S. health agencies is that you remember to wash your hands — and do so at an almost annoying frequency. Infrequent hand-washing will undoubtedly spread diseases like the flu, so do your part and scrub-a-dub-dub. Don’t forget to clean your work desk, your house, and (ick) your phone! These germ-infested spots can wreak havoc on your healthy habits. And of course, if you’re feeling ill, stay home instead of going into the office or school. Your coworkers and your kid’s classmates will thank you.
If this year’s flu season is anything like the one we experienced last year, you’ll want to do everything in your power to prevent coming down with it. But if you’ve tried all of the above and you still suspect someone in your home has gotten it, you should take immediate action. Going to your local urgent care or physician’s office right away is a good idea since they can offer flu treatments that can shorten its span and decrease its severity. Since 92% of urgent care centers maintained wait times of 30 minutes or less in 2015, you shouldn’t have to wait too long to be seen. But keep in mind that if you don’t act right away, these treatments won’t work — and you can easily infect others who aren’t able to receive the flu vaccine. And if you do receive the vaccine, don’t neglect these other tips; they can make all the difference for you and those around you.

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