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Health News of Monday, 29 December 2014

Source: Sabrina Brem, MSN

6 Simple ways to avoid Flu

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Don't Get Sick This Year Flu season started in October, and symptoms can wipe you out for up to a week at a time. Even adults with no symptoms may be able to infect others with the flu one day before sniffles start. Set the stage now for a sickness-free winter with these infection-dodging steps.

Follow these good-for-you tips to keep germs at bay. From how long to wash your hands for to which germy spots to watch out for, these facts can help prevent the flu.

Prepare your body For starters, get the flu vaccine—it doesn't guarantee you won't get the flu, but it reduces your chances by about 60%. Also, try to exercise for 30 minutes a day because moderate physical activity helps strengthen your immune system. One study found that people who moved daily were less likely to develop a cold, compared with people who didn't exercise. And eat lighter meals more frequently rather than three big ones. (If your body is digesting a heavy meal, it's less able to help support your immune system.)

Stay safe at home Keep surfaces sanitized with disinfectant, have boxes of tissues in every room and encourage your family to be diligent about handwashing—the best way to prevent the spread of disease. A recent study found that only 5% of people wash their hands long enough to actually kill germs. (The CDC says 20 seconds of vigorous handwashing with soap and water is what you need to stay safe, but the average person spends only 6 seconds at the sink.) To wash effectively, take at least 20 seconds to scrub between your fingers and scratch your fingernails in your palms to get soap and water underneath. Make sure you throw out all tissues immediately after they're used, too: A virus can live on a tissue or other surface for up to two days.

Beware of sneaky germs While inhaling airborne droplets of disease is a common way to catch a cold, touching something germy with your hands (such as a car door handle) and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth (where mucous membranes live) is also typical. So pay attention to frequently touched, but easy to forget, surfaces. In your car, wipe down dials and the steering wheel with a disinfectant once a week. And at home, wipe down doorknobs. Flu germs can travel up to 6 feet in the air and live for 2 to 8 hours on hard surfaces—so grabbing the remote after a sick family member uses it could be just as bad as sitting next to her. Stock your medicine cabinet (and purse!) with hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol and apply during the day.

Take a tea break Stress may wear down your immune system, making you more susceptible to sickness. Make time--—even if just for a few minutes--—to decompress with a cup of tea daily. (Staying hydrated also helps you.)

Turn on the humidifer There's a reason influenza spreads in the winter instead of summer: The virus thrives in cold, dry environments. A humidifier set at 40% to 50% humidity (you can purchase a monitor to check levels in your home) increases moisture in the air, reducing the flu's ability to infect you.

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