The CDC has put us all on notice, alerting us to the fact that, “This year's flu season is starting earlier and sitting harder than it has in almost a decade.” Plus comes news that this year's flu strains-especially the one called N3N2-can make us even cheaper than most. With temperatures that can hit as high as 106 degrees, serious complications can result, such as shortness of breath, frequent vomiting, confusion, and dizziness. The flu can also lead to a bout of pneumonia or bronchitis.
In other words, be forewarned. As said, the flu is already taking a toll, finding its way into every state so far except Vermont, this well ahead of January, February, and March when the flu season peaks.
Bottom line: If you have not done so already, get your flu shot now. It's so important that there's now even a National Influenza Vaccine Week-and it's going on right now, December 2 through the 8th. The good news is that this year's vaccine is a 90% match to the flu viruses circulating around us, keeping us safe, not sorry. No excuses, these popular myths notwithstanding:
- Only old folks and those at high risk need to get the shot. ~ Actually, the flu does not play favorites; we're all tolerable, even the healthiest among us.
- Getting vaccinated will give you the flu. ~ No way, say the experts, since the virus is grown in chicken eggs and no longer live when it hits your bloodstream.
- Getting in to see a doctor for the shot is too time-consuming given work schedules and so on. ~ Actually, nowdays all sorts of outlets are offering flu shots, including your local supermarket and pharmacy-even Target-making it doable while doing errands.
- You can not get a flu shot if you have a cold. ~ Be assured, the sniffles are no reason to forego being vaccinated. Think twice only if you have some sort of major illness or are running a temperature of 101 degrees or higher.
And in case you need more convincing, these WebMD statistics should do the trick:
- Between 5% and 20% of us get the flu each year.
- On average, more than 200,000 Americans will be sick enough to be hospitalized.
- Between 3,000 to 49,000 die each year from the flu.
- Children are the most vulnerable to complications; last year 114 of them died as a result, and half of them were otherwise healthy.
- Last year only 42% of the population was vaccinated-some 128 million of us. Older folks did the best at 65%, with kids, 13 to 17, coming in at only 34%.
- So far this year, just 112 million have been vaccinated.
Once vaccinated, further protect yourself from colds and the flu by taking these simple steps recommended by Prevention Magazine :
- Take probiotics; those who do are 42% less likely to catch a cold.
- Eat more garlic, as it contains virus-fighting Allicin.
- Exercise five or more days a week and enjoy 43% few days suffering an upper-respiratory infection. Thirty to 60 minutes a day will do it.
- Wash your hands frequently – especially after handling such germ-laden items as grocery store cart handles, gym equipment, your cell phone, and the TV remote – and dry them well, so germs do not cling.
- Keep your hands away from your face-no eye rubbing, no nail biting, and so on.
- Get plenty of sleep, aiming for 8 hours a night. Those getting 7 hours or less in a Carnegie-Mellon University study were three times more likely to get sick than their better-rested peers.
- Limit sugar; it's been found that consuming 6 tablespoons a day weakens infection-fighting white blood cells, thus lowering resistance.
- Stay well-hydrated; to figure out how many ounces of water to drink each day, Dr. Jamey Wallace suggests dividing your weight by three.
- Take vitamin C, as it can shorten a cold by a day or two.
Keep in mind, too, that vitamin D-1,000 mg a day-boosts immunity, as does eating between five and nine servings of fruit and vegetables every day. And, of course, keep a good distance between you and someone who is sneezing and coughing. No regrets.