- Published on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 00:00
- Written by Ron Sinha, M.D.
Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Have you gotten your flu shot yet?
Flu season is here, and I always tell my patients that the No. 1 way to prevent flu is to get your flu vaccination. This helps protect you, your family, your co-workers and your community.
Along with the flu vaccine, patients sometimes ask me about other flu prevention ideas, so I’ll share a few with you here.
Flu prevention principles
• Get your flu vaccination.
• Wash your hands.
• Use a hand sanitizer.
• Regularly wash your linens.
• If you are infected, wear a mask if in close proximity to others, especially those who are at high risk.
Habits to avoid
• Eye rubbing.
• Hand sneezing or hand coughing.
• Nose rubbing or picking.
• Reusing tissues – throw away after each use.
Reminders regarding children
• Keep them home from school if they are sick.
• Teach them about germs and how they are transmitted.
• Teach them how to cough/sneeze, wash their hands and use hand gel.
• Make sure they use enough hand gel and rub over all hand surfaces.
• Teach them when they should wash their hands.
• Teach them how to stay away from children who appear sick: 6-foot distance (show them how far this is), no sharing toys, etc.
• Wet hands with clean, running water and apply soap – use warm water if available.
• Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
• Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds – sing “ABCs” or “Happy Birthday” twice.
• Rinse hands well under running water.
• Dry hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the restroom door.
• Alcohol-based hand sanitizers kill viruses and bacteria.
• Must contain at least 60 percent alcohol (less won’t effectively kill viruses and bacteria).
• Rub over all surfaces of hands and fingers until dry.
• If it dries in less than 10-15 seconds after rubbing, then you haven’t used enough.
• Visibly soiled hands need to be washed.
• Keep sanitizer with you whenever possible, especially in areas of high people exposure (airports, conferences, shopping malls, etc.).
• Use after exiting public restrooms, especially if your hand touched the door handle.
• Keep hand sanitizer in your car.
Optimize your immune system
• Adjust your environment (limit exposures – decrease travel if possible and stay at home).
• Reduce stress.
• Get ample sleep.
• Eat nutritious meals.
• Stay hydrated.
What about supplements?
• In general, there is no strong support for use of supplements to boost immunity. This includes zinc, echinacea and Airborne.
• Vitamin C may help prevent colds but is not shown to be an effective treatment. Vitamin C may benefit individuals who exercise intensely or are in very cold environments (skiers, marathon runners, etc.).
• Most antioxidant supplements are inactivated by the body, unlike getting the antioxidants through your diet. There is no pill replacement for eating a nutritious diet.
Key numbers to remember
• 6 feet: minimum safe distance.
• 24 hours: how long someone infected should remain without fever (without medications) before returning to work.
• 48 hours: ideal treatment window for antivirals.
• 20 seconds: minimum hand-washing time.
• 1-7 days: how long you remain infectious.
• 8 hours: virus survival time on hard surfaces (doorknobs, etc.) – time varies.
• 12 hours: virus survival time on soft surfaces (tissues, clothes, etc.) – time varies.
Remember, you are still shedding the flu virus for approximately seven days after you develop flu symptoms, so resist the impulse to smother your children with affection the minute your fever breaks. The same is true for children after they recover. Limit contact with grandparents and other family members anxious to visit right away, especially if they are at high risk.
And most importantly, remember to get your flu shot even if you never get the flu – protect the people around you.
For more information, visit www.pamf.org or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.
Dr. Ron Sinha practices at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Los Altos.