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Foiling the flu

One person with the flu can quickly turn into a family with the flu unless you take the right precautions. Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the respiratory system. For most healthy people, catching this bug means a few miserable days in bed, but for children, the elderly, people with chronic illnesses and those with a weakened immune system, the flu can be deadly.

Avoid the achoos

When an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks, he or she sends droplets into the air—and onto the phone, remote control, computer keyboard and countless other surfaces. You can get sick when you inhale the droplets or simply touch the contaminated object before bringing your hand to your nose, eyes or mouth.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year. The vaccine can’t protect you 100 percent, but it can lessen the illness’s severity if you do get sick. Other ways to prevent the virus from spreading:

  • Ask your doctor about antiviral drugs. These can be up to 90 percent effective in preventing infections and can also help treat the flu.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds. Teach your children to do the same. Use a paper towel to dry your hands. No water around? Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Sneeze and cough the right way. Instead of sneezing into your hands (a surefire way to spread germs), cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or with the crook of your arm. Throw out used tissues immediately.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Don’t share household items like towels and utensils.
  • Boost your immune system. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.
  • Clean up. Regularly spray commonly used surfaces (the phone, refrigerator door handle, computer mouse) with a household disinfectant.
  • Skip school or work if you’re sick. Persuade your spouse and children to do the same, sparing classmates and co-workers from the flu’s wrath.

If you do get sick, drink plenty of fluids and get some rest. And see your healthcare provider: He or she may be able to give you an antiviral drug to speed your recovery.