It’s that time of the year where every doctor surgery has a poster on the wall about flu jabs. For most people, getting the flu means feeling miserable for a week or so combined with the hassle of taking a few sick days. For others, the risk of serious complications are high and it can aggravate underlying conditions like asthma or diabetes. Nobody wants to get the flu, but what is the best strategy for prevention? Here are some ideas:
Prioritize basic hygiene habits
Wash your hands. We do not wash our hands often enough and when we do, 95% of us do it wrong. For it to actually make any difference, technique is everything. Have a look at how you should be washing your hands to really get them clean here.
If soap and water isn’t available, health organizations recommend alcohol rubs. We’re not huge fans of alcohol rubs, but we love Bentley’s alcohol free hand sanitizer that has been scientifically proven to be just as effective using a lot of natural, organic ingredients instead. Awesome.
Washing your hands is a great start, but that alone isn’t enough. There is a few simple rules I live by and have taught our daughter since she was very little.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then put that tissue in the bin (and wash your hands).
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with sick people – it’s okay to say no to shaking someone’s hand or giving them a hug if they’re sick.
Boost your immune system
We aren’t huge fans of fads at Ergohacks and will not be recommending supplements, shakes or superfoods. We believe in just being sensible:
- Eat healthy foods, lots of fresh food with plenty of fruit, vegetables, unsaturated fats and wholegrains.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Be active, exercise regularly. Most people are not exercising nearly enough. Here is how much you actually need.
- Aim to maintain a healthy weight.
- Sleep well and get enough sleep.
- Don’t smoke.
- If you drink, drink alcohol in moderation.
What about the Flu vaccine?
Flu vaccination is not a guarantee. On average, it’s a 50/50 chance to not get sick when you would’ve otherwise. Cold and flu viruses are well-known for mutating and some winters the strain that pre-dominates may not have been vaccinated for, such as the circulation of influenza A(H3N2) subtype viruses in 2014-15 that reduced the effectiveness of the vaccine from 50% to 3%*.
It’s worth thinking about getting vaccinated, particularly if you are at higher risk. The NHS provides free vaccination for a subset of the population – anyone over 65, pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions, like diabetes, asthma treated with steroid tablets/inhalers, Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease, anyone with a weakened immune system. Children aged 2-7 receive the vaccination via nasal spray. Under 5’s usually receive it through their doctor’s surgery, whilst reception, year 1 and year 2 children are often vaccinated at school. Children with chronic health conditions like diabetes and asthma continue to receive the nasal spray vaccine usually until they are 17. Carers and health care workers are also eligible. There is a comprehensive list on NHS.uk here.
It is mainly up to the discretion of your doctor whether you can receive a flu vaccination on the NHS, if in doubt, ring your surgery. For those who do not qualify but would like to be vaccinated, high street pharmacies, as well as many doctor surgeries, offer a flu jab privately for around £10.
Flu viruses change and the vaccine is updated each year, so never think that getting it once will be good enough. The best time to get your annual flu vaccine is in the Autumn, October and early November. It remains available throughout the winter, but if you’re going to get the extra protection, might as well get it at the start of the season.
Don’t share the germs
If you have been unlucky enough to get the flu, don’t infect others. Avoid close contact with other people and stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone.
Clean and disinfect all surfaces that may be contaminated – common culprits, we don’t think about is coats (washed less often than other clothing), door handles, furniture – coffee tables, bed frames, the couch, furnishings – the blankets we snuggled under on the couch, cushions, pillows, blankets and towels, particularly hand towels we use to dry nice clean hands after we washed them thoroughly.
It is more eco-friendly to use lower temperatures for laundry, but use a high temperature and bleach* to clean laundry that may be contaminated to reduce the spread of infection.