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What's the Best Way to Avoid Getting the Flu?

September 4, 2023

Ill upset girl is holding paper tissue and blowing nose.

Can vitamins, home remedies, over-the-counter medication and even chicken soup really keep us from getting the flu?

According to Susan Palmer, DO, a family medicine physician at Atlantic Health System, the answer is, not exactly. The only surefire way to avoid catching the flu is to avoid exposure to the influenza virus. And the best way to do that is to protect yourself by getting the flu vaccine.

“Influenza is a contagious respiratory virus that infects the nose, throat and lungs,” says Dr. Palmer. “When someone breathes in tiny airborne droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, or touches their virus-contaminated hands, it spreads easily.”

Young children, adults over age 65, and anyone with chronic health conditions are at a higher risk of developing complications from colds and flu, so it’s wise to be proactive during flu season and get the vaccine.

Here are six measures you can take to stay healthy during flu season.

1. Get Your Annual Flu Shot

Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that, although vaccine effectiveness can vary, flu vaccination reduces flu illness by about 40% to 60% during peak season. The CDC recommends that anyone over six months and in good health should get a flu shot every year. The best time to get vaccinated is during September or October before flu season reaches full swing.

2. Start an Antiviral Medication

Taking a prescription antiviral medication such as Tamiflu® or Xofluza®, within 24 to 48 hours of becoming symptomatic, can reduce symptoms and duration of the illness — and prevent the virus from spreading. Some antivirals are currently approved for babies as young as two weeks old with flu, others are for children ages five and up. Schedule a virtual visit with your doctor to discuss the options.

3. Consider Two Essential Vitamins

Vitamins C and D can give the immune system a surge. Taking these two essential supplements before and throughout flu season can help your body protect itself from colds and flu, but they should complement a healthy diet, good hydration, quality sleep, regular exercise, and well-managed stress.

4. Tap into Home Remedies

Plenty of water and nutrient-packed foods can help you fight off colds and flu. A warm bowl of chicken soup or a cup of organic tea with lemon and ginger can also help hydrate and heal. Gargling with saltwater can sooth a sore throat. And a cool compress on the forehead can relieve an achy head. Of course, these aren’t cures, but they’ll sure feel good.

5. Practice Good Hygiene and Keep Your Distance

Take precautionary measures to limit the spread of the virus. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you’re coughing and wash your hands regularly. Rest and sleep are important, of course, but a little physical activity and time outdoors can help, too. Just do it alone if you’re contagious.

6. Stock Up on Over-The-Counter Items

Using a topical mentholated ointment like Vicks® VapoRub can help relieve a cough or stuffy nose. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Motrin®) can effectively lower a fever. Just be sure to follow the package directions and stay home for 24 hours after your fever breaks.

“Antivirals are incredibly effective, along with any combination of preventive care that works for you,” says Dr. Palmer, who explains that she takes a daily dose of vitamin C (1,000mg) and vitamin D3 (2,000mg) to keep her immune system strong year-round. “If you’re sick, the bottom line is to stay at home, rest, and avoid close contact with the people in your house until you’re feeling better.”

Be Proactive About Your Health

To stay safe and healthy, it's good to have a primary care provider who knows and understands your health history and wellness goals.

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  • Healthy Living
  • Cold, Flu & Viruses