October 29, 2014 at 9:33 PM CDT - Updated July 21 at 4:40 PM
Flu season is here, and Newschannel 6 is giving you tips you should know in order to prevent, identify, and treat the flu virus.
Characteristic, high (100-102°F); lasts three to four days
General Aches, Pains
Usual; often severe
Can last up to two to three weeks
Early and prominent
Chest Discomfort, Cough
Mild to moderate; hacking cough
Common; can become severe
Exercise: It's a Proven Immune Booster
Moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, for 45 minutes a day, five days a week can reduce risk of a cold by a third. The best results are long-term. In one study, women who walked for 12 months had the most resistance to colds in the final quarter of the year.
Eat and Sleep for Health
Mom was right when she told you to eat right and get plenty of rest. That, along with exercise and stress reduction, keeps your immune system healthy and better able to withstand infection. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits that offer antioxidants. Try to get eight or seven hours of sleep a night.
Wash Your Hands Often
Use warm water and a good helping of soap. Plain soap is fine, because it's the act of rubbing the hands together for at least 20 seconds that is going to eliminate germs. Don't forget to clean under the nails, between the fingers, and wash your wrists as well. In public bathrooms, use a paper towel to turn off the facet, another one to dry your hands, and throw them away.
Watch Your Fingers
Without thinking, we rub our eyes, cover our mouths, or rub our noses with our hands. That is a sure way to infect yourself with cold virus particles. Keep your fingers away from your nose and your eyes to avoid infecting yourself with cold virus particles.
Teach Prevention Hygiene to Your Kids
Children share cold viruses easily -- and bring them into your home. Teach your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue. And instill a life-long habit that is the key to illness prevention: hand washing.
Get the Flu Vaccine
Vaccines are the surest way to prevent the flu. The best time to get a flu vaccine is from October through November, although you can get the vaccine even later during flu season. Get the flu vaccine every year. Flu viruses are constantly changing, and new vaccines are developed each year to protect against new strains.
Clean for Virus Prevention
Use disinfectant when you clean at home, especially in the bathroom and kitchen. Stay away from sponges and rags -- studies show they're the number one source of germs in the whole house. If you must use sponges, change them once a week or soak them in bleach for 15 minutes.
Practice Cold and Flu Prevention at Work
Hold office meetings in large rooms with plenty of ventilation, and don't be afraid to practice "social distancing." Keep some extra space between you and people who are sick, or who sneeze or cough openly. If you share a workstation with others, clean it with antibacterial wipes before you sit down.
1. Drink up. The flu can leave you dehydrated, especially if have vomiting or diarrhea. So be sure to get enough fluids. Water is fine. So are fruit juices, soda, and electrolyte beverages. You may want to stay away from caffeinated drinks, because caffeine is a diuretic. Herbal tea with honey can soothe a sore throat. If you feel nauseated, try taking small sips of liquids -- gulps might cause you to throw up. How can you be sure you're getting enough fluid? Your urine should be pale yellow, almost colorless.
How about drinking alcohol? No way. "When you have the flu, the last thing you want to do is drink alcohol," says William Schaffner, MD, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. "It makes you sleepy, and flu does that already."
2. Sip some soup. For generations, caring parents have been serving chicken soup to kids with colds and flu. But was mom right? Possibly. A study published in the journal Chest showed that chicken soup may help with symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections like the flu.
"I believe that chicken soup does help with symptoms," says Reid B. Blackwelder, MD, professor of family medicine at East Tennessee State University in Kingsport. But not all doctors agree that chemistry alone explains the soup's apparent benefits. "When you lean over a bowl of hot chicken soup and the vapor gets up your nose, you feel better," Schaffner says. "But some of the benefit is clearly emotional. It just makes you feel better having someone make soup for you."
3. Be a couch potato. Listen to your body. If it's telling you not to exercise, don't. If it's urging you to spend all day in bed, do. Don't press on with daily chores even in the face of severe cold or flu symptoms. Rest is "another way of supporting the body's ability to fight infection," Blackwelder says.
And don't skimp on nighttime sleep. "Good sleep cycles help the immune system work well, so it's important to get your full eight hours of sleep each night," Schaffner says.
4. Humidify. Breathing moist air helps ease nasal congestion and sore throat pain. One good strategy is to indulge in a steamy shower several times a day -- or just turn on the shower and sit in the bathroom for a few minutes, inhaling the steam. Another is to use a humidifier. Clean it often to make sure it's free of mold and mildew.
5. Make a tent. Need a quick way to open clogged airways? Bring a pot of water to a boil and remove it from the heat. Drape a towel over your head, close your eyes, and lean over the water under the "tent," breathing deeply through your nose for 30 seconds. David Kiefer, MD, clinical instructor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, recommends adding a drop or two of peppermint or eucalyptus oil to the water for extra phlegm-busting power. Repeat this as often as necessary to ease congestion.
6. Try a warm compress. On the forehead and nose, a warm cloth is a great way to relieve headache or sinus pain.
7. Be a sucker. Cough drops, throat lozenges, and hard candy can be surprisingly effective at easing a cough or sore throat. Some doctors, including Kiefer, swear by lozenges containing slippery elm. Others recommend zinc lozenges to help shorten cold symptoms, though Schaffner is not convinced of their effectiveness. "If there is an effect [against colds and flu], it's a small one," he says. "I wish their effect were as good as their taste is bad."
8. Swish and spit. Gargling with salt water helps get rid of the thick mucus that can collect at the back of the throat, especially after you've been lying down. It can also help ease stuffy ears, Kiefer says.
9. Try nasal irrigation. To ease stuffiness and post-nasal drip -- and perhaps cut the risk of getting a sinus infection -- some doctors recommend nasal irrigation. You can buy a neti pot in health food stores and drugstores, or opt for a saline squeeze bottle. You pour salt water into one nostril and let it run out the other, clearing out your nasal passages. You can buy pre-made saline solution or make it by mixing salt and lukewarm water.
10. Line up a caregiver. A caregiver can't lower your temperature or cure a sore throat, but "having someone to tuck you into bed and bring you fluids is very comforting," says Blackwelder. If a friend or family member offers to help, even if it's only to stop by and check