10 EVIDENCE-BACKED Strategies to Avoid the Flu Like a Pro
Updated: Aug 9, 2020
Watch your friends stare jealously as you deftly ninja out of the way of oncoming viruses…
You know the feeling. You push it to the back of your mind — your friends chat about the upcoming election, the new sneakers coming out tomorrow, that cute cashier at the burger joint… Anything to shove the soreness in your throat and that growing headache that started an hour ago to the back of your mind. After a full day of socializing, you climb in bed and pray for a surprise turn-around.
You’re not sick, you tell yourself. Mind over matter. You got this!
The next morning:
When you get hit with the flu — life stops.
The flu, aka influenza, is the meme of the virus world. Suddenly out of nowhere — it’s everywhere. It hits hard, but most people get over it in about two weeks.
The flu is a virus, and while all viruses are different, they tend to follow the same steps to infiltrate our systems and copy themselves. This means that no matter the virus, you can take steps to keep yourself healthy, and your friends and family healthy.
Before we dive into the best methods to protect yourself from the flu and stay virus-free, what do you really know about viruses?
Everyone knows the flu (Influenza). You recognize it by the tell-tale signs:
Fever and chills
Muscle and body aches
Runny or stuffy nose
Some experience vomiting and diarrhea
But it’s not the only virus out there. The coronavirus has it in the name. You’ve gone through a bare-bones sex-ed class and know herpes and HIV are part of the virus family. Chickenpox, measles, mumps, shingles, rubella — all those vaccinations we get — protect against viruses.
How Do Vaccinations Work?
Vaccinations work by introducing the virus into your system in the perfect amount for your body to easily spot it, build up its army to fight it off, and return your body to perfect health, prepared for the next encounter. Take the flu for instance. The flu vaccine bulks up your immune system in about two weeks in case that flu virus decides to come around these parts ever again.
Pro tip! Not everyone is medically safe to get vaccinations — they need our help to protect them from viruses! Age, allergies, and health conditions can make it unwise, so always check with a doctor first! The trick is Herd Immunity — when enough people are immune to a virus, the disease doesn’t have enough hosts to reach the people who can’t vaccinate.
*You can play a part in protecting other families and children who can’t get vaccines — read more about our own recent measles outbreak and vaccination rates.*
How do you get the flu?
When someone coughs or sneezes they eject thousands of particles, viruses included, into the air. If you are within six feet of that sneeze, you have a good chance of inhaling those virus particles, which then work to replicate and spread to the next person. You can also get sick by touching surfaces covered with fallen sneeze particles and bringing your hand near your face.
So besides isolating yourself in your bunker and ordering in for the rest of your life… What can you do to avoid those dastardly particles from sneaking into your lungs and turning you into The Walking Dead?
Don’t panic! Without further ado, I give you:
10 NO-NONSENSE WAYS TO AVOID THE FLU LIKE A PRO
1. WASH YOUR FREAKIN’ HANDS!
I can’t scream this loudly enough. Wash them, and do it again because I’m not sure I believe you. The CDC recommends washing your hands for a good 20 seconds (no, you can’t rush the Mississippi’s) with lathering soap before hitting the water. That is singing Happy Birthday two times in a row. I guarantee you haven’t been washing your hands right — The World Health Organization will show you how it’s done.
Usually a quick suds-it-up and rinse-it-off hand-washer myself, it shocked me how much longer it took to actually clean the bacteria from my hands.
This is the MOST VITALLY IMPORTANT TIP. We touch everything with our hands. We open doors, we share phones with friends, we pass credit cards between trusted cashiers. We touch EVERYTHING. What else do we touch? Our face. We rub our eyes, we scratch our nose, we fiddle with our lips. We also make it very easy to deliver those virus particles on our fingertips right into our airways for infiltration. WASH ‘EM.
2. Bring Back The Vampire Cough!
If you might be sick, this is one of the most considerate ways to protect those around you. It’s very easy to do. Imagine you’re wearing a cape — say Dracula’s for instance. With one hand, grab the corner of your cape and bring it around to cover your face. Your elbow should line up right in front of your nose!
3. Get Your Hands Off That!
Especially your face. It’s tough, I know. But If there’s one time to work on your will-power, it’s during flu season.
Avoid touching common spots like door handles, water fountains, ATMs, credit card machine buttons — pull up your sleeve, or even better — use a paper towel, or a key. Just find some sort of barrier so you don’t make direct contact with your skin. AND THEN WASH YOUR HANDS AGAIN. You did just yank your keys out of your purse by the key itself, right?
Germs… they be sneaky.
4. Catch Some Extra Zzzz’s
Getting enough sleep improves your immune system functioning and helps you ward off an oncoming flu, or fight off the one you already have! Prioritize your health — turn Netflix off 30 minutes earlier than normal and take care of your body, it needs you!
We all know the benefits of working out, they’ve been shouted from the digital rooftops for a while now. One of the main benefits? Boosting your immune system. Cardio-centered activities like running, jump roping and swimming improve your aerobic capacity, or your ability to pump blood quickly to your muscles. This means when you are sick, your body responds even faster to those virus cells!
6. Pick Up a Bottle of Hand Sanitizer
Added perks of this on-the-go method of keeping your hands bacteria-free? Making friends with all the people who didn’t prepare and now live in constant fear. Fun Fact — you probably aren’t using hand sanitizer right. You should be using enough hand sanitizer to lather your hands for the same 20 seconds you do washing them.
Regretting not panicking early and stocking up on your $300 bottle of hand sanitizer? You can make your own virus-killing hand sanitizer with just ⅓ cup Aloe and ⅔ cup of rubbing alcohol. For the ultimate mental vacation with every hand-scrub, add 8–10 drops of your favorite skin-friendly essential oils!
7. Accessorize With a Stylish Scarf
Although the science is a little shaky on how well this barrier method works, and whether it’s ‘success’ comes from touching your face less, or actually breathing in fewer virus particles. Skip the surgical masks — Hospital staff and vulnerable groups need them most. If it might reduce risk either way, and it reduces stress? Why not go for it.
*If you’re struggling with chronic stress, you might be more vulnerable to viruses like the flu. Take charge of your health and happiness by kicking out the extra stress in your life here.* What we do know is that masks are most important for vulnerable groups (people with health conditions and over the age of 65) and healthcare providers who are in constant contact with sickness. They need the masks far more — take care of them first.
8. Mittens Aren’t Just for Kids?
While it may take some time for the trend to hit LA, you can start the trend by styling up with some full coverage mittens or gloves. There are plenty of gloves that use touch-screen capable-fabric, and with some, you can easily flip between full-mitten coverage and finger-tip access for phone use and BONUS — it’ll keep you nice and toasty during those chilly flu seasons!
9. Get Those Liquids!
Drinking enough water keeps you in tip-top shape anyways and when you have a cold, hydration supercharges your system.
Constantly waging war against the flu takes a lot of energy and dehydrates you quickly Make sure you’re giving your soldiers as much support as you can and stay hydrated! The amount of water you need might be different from other people — double-check how much water is right for you using this calculator!
10. If it Gets Worse — Get Thee to a Doctor!
Often, you’ll make a problem worse by ignoring the signs that you should see a doctor. If the symptoms feel worse than normal, you have a fever over 100.4, or the symptoms last more than 10 days — don’t put it off. Get in to see a doctor so you can go back to your happy and flu-free self in no time.
Remember — while dipping, diving and dodging to avoid the flu can work for a while, it won’t work forever. We are ALL stronger when we work as a team, so take care of each other. We have the capacity for endless compassion and love. Let’s use that passion to bring as much health and happiness to the world as we can.
I hope I’ve given you enough information to use as a launch board for taking charge of your health and understanding our common enemy, the flu. Maybe you even picked up a few tips and tricks at avoiding other viruses too.
Please stay healthy and keep safe out there! Leading a lifestyle that supports a healthy immune system prepares you for the flu and more dangerous viruses better than anything you can do after getting sick.
Share this with anyone you feel could benefit from learning more about how to avoid the flu and please comment below with any of your tips and home remedies, I’d love to hear from you!
*Originally Published on Medium March 15, 2020.