COLLEGE STATION Flu shots are in short supply this year.
For those who usually protect themselves with flu shots but will be unable to this year, Texas Cooperative Extension experts offer some advice: Don’t panic.
Dr. Carol Rice, Extension health specialist, and Andrew Crocker, Extension gerontology and health specialist, said these common-sense health tips could help this winter, even if flu shots are not an option:
- Wash hands as often as possible. Frequent use of soap and water can go a long way toward reducing instances of winter illnesses, Rice said.
“Most cold and flu germs are spread by direct contact,” Crocker said. “If you were to sneeze into your hand and then touch a doorknob, the germs (from your sneeze, to your hand, to the doorknob) may stay on that doorknob for hours even days.” Washing hands will prevent germs from spreading from person to person this way.
- Cover sneezes and coughs. Keep tissues or a handkerchief handy to cover your nose and mouth if you have to sneeze or cough. That will keep germs from spreading into the air, where they can infect others, Crocker said.
Covering your sneeze with your hand isn’t very sanitary, he said, especially if you immediately touch someone or some thing.
“If you do cover a sneeze or cough with you hands, remember to wash your hands immediately.”
If a tissue or handkerchief isn’t handy, he suggested turning away from others and coughing into the air.
- Get moving. Get regular exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes each day, Rice said. “Studies show this helps you avoid getting sick because your immune system is more effective.”
- Eat a healthful diet. Be sure to choose a variety of foods, Rice advised. “The food guide pyramid can help you make good choices.”
- Keep stress to a minimum. Recent studies show individuals who have a positive attitude are less likely to catch colds than individuals whose attitude is more negative, Crocker said. Healthy and positive attitudes also promote healthy lifestyle habits, he said, which can also mean fewer illnesses.
- Sleep. Quality sleep helps the body recover from illness, Rice said. Getting enough sleep can also be an important step in preventing some illnesses in the first place, she said.
The National Sleep Foundation (http://www.sleepfoundation.org) offered these tips:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule to help keep the body’s natural rhythm in balance.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, which can all have negative effects on sleep.
- Don’t go to bed on a full stomach.
- Finish exercise workouts at least three hours before bedtime.
- Relax before bed. Try soaking in a warm bath, reading or listening to soothing music.
- Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and keep the room dark, quiet, cool and comfortable.
- Daytime naps should be short and sweet no more than 20 or 30 minutes.
If you do come down with the flu, experts from the Mayo Clinic advise getting rest, drinking fluids, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and seeking medical advice.
Take antiviral medication if prescribed and above all, don’t go to work, school or anywhere else you might spread the disease to others. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/index.cfm . Click on the link to Infectious Disease.)