I don't want to be the bearer of bad news (especially if 2018 is off to an exceptional start for you), but I unfortunately have a not-so-great update to share: The United States is currently experiencing a flu epidemic. It's important that you're aware of the flu epidemic because then you can take the necessary steps in your attempt to avoid becoming infected with the flu. While maintaining good health is always a good idea, it's especially important to pay attention to these five ways to stay healthy during the flu epidemic.
On Friday, Jan. 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that the U.S. is currently experiencing an unusually severe flu season, according to NPR. It has been categorized as having "widespread and intense activity" across the nation, according to Brenda Fitzgerald, the director of the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC has made this assessment thanks to data that indicates the percentage of people being treated for the flu at the doctor (5.8 percent) and the number of Americans being hospitalized for the flu (22.7 out of every 100,000).
For reference, 5.8 percent of patients at the doctor being treated for the flu is the highest that number gets during the peak of a particularly bad flu season, and the number of people in the hospital for the flu doubled during the week of Jan. 1. Those two numbers help indicate to the CDC that this is a severe flu season (yikes!).
Don't panic just yet, though, because you can take some important steps in an attempt to avoid catching the flu this season.
Thanks to resources like the CDC and other healthcare websites, there is a bounty of information out there with tips to help people trying to avoid coming down with the flu this season. So, if you're interested in staying healthy during this flu epidemic (of course you are), you can take action before it's too late.
It's important to stress that these are tips from verified sources, but they do not replace doctor's orders. So if you're sick, you should see your doctor right away.
1. Get Vaccinated
According to the CDC website, the most effective way to help prevent the seasonal flu is to get vaccinated with the flu vaccine every year. If you're not a fan of needles, this might be more not-so-fun news, but the CDC recommends the use of needle-injected vaccines.
You can find a location to get a flu shot near you with the CDC's "Flu Vaccine Finder" — no excuse to not get it now. Plus, the short-lived pain of the needle will be totally worth staying healthy and Netflix binge-watching on your own terms (not because you're laid up with the flu).
2. Wash Your Hands
It sounds simple, and your mom or dad likely told you to do it every night before sitting down at the dinner table, but the fact remains that it's good advice to wash your hands — especially during flu season.
The CDC recommends frequent hand-washing to protect from germs. University of Wisconsin Health further elaborates that it's important to wash your hands after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose. If you don't have access to soap and water when you need to wash, the CDC offers up the solution of an alcohol-based hand rub that contains at least 60 percent alcohol (like Purell).
Oh, and always wash your hands after using the bathroom (obviously).
3. Keep Your Hands Away From Your Face
The CDC and UW Health both stress the importance of focusing on not touching your eyes, mouth, and nose. These areas are very susceptible to germs if, say, you touch something covered with germs and then put your hands to your eyes, mouth, or nose before washing them.
So, keep your unwashed hands away from your face, and you'll give yourself a better chance of not catching the flu.
4. Use Your Sick Days
You know that person who comes into the office hacking and sneezing and makes you wish that you wore your hazmat suit to work? Yeah, the CDC tells you not to be that person. They say to stay home from work, school and running errands when you are sick to avoid spreading it to others.
So, even if you're healthy, it might be good to tell your under-the-weather coworkers to pack it up for the day so they can rest and get well, and furthermore, so you can hopefully avoid an office outbreak. And if you're ill, call in sick and return to being the awesome employee you are when you are well again.
5. Eat And Sleep Well
This is a two-for-one that falls under the category of general wellness. When it comes to healthy eating habits, the CDC recommends drinking plenty of fluids and filling your diet with nutritious foods. According to Healthline, a balanced diet contains fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and lean proteins. So, make sure you stock up on the essentials to keep your immune system happy.
As for sleep, UW Health says to get enough sleep to avoid "getting rundown." Of course, the amount of sleep necessary varies for every person, so it's important to get the correct amount for your body to keep yourself healthy.
If you take all of these and other preventative actions and still get the flu, you should see your doctor. According to the CDC, your doctor may be able to prescribe to antiviral drugs that could help fight the flu in your body.
Of course, there are so many ways you can help yourself stay healthy during this flu season, but there is no surefire to fully prevent getting the flu. Practicing these and other health tips, though, is a good way to try to prevent yourself from catching the flu this season.