With the holiday season, nobody will want to have the festive mood marred by coming down with the flu, whether it is the merry-making or the running of errands.

The flu is a viral infection. It is spread when people breathe in liquid droplets containing the flu virus that have been sneezed or coughed into the air, or when people touch things already contaminated with the virus.

The virus can cause infections all year round, but it is most common in the winter. Here are some tips to avoid the flu in the coming days.

(1) Wash your hands regularly.

The flu virus is often spread through contact. The things that we come into contact with in the course of our daily activities such as table, chair, phone, books are places where the flu virus can be found. After we have touched them, we often unknowingly touch our nose, eyes and mouth, which allows the virus to get into our body. It is said that more people are infected by the flu virus through this manner, than the airborne method.

Hence it is very important that we wash our hands regularly. Rinse and rub your hands, preferably with soap, for at least 15 seconds. While it might seem like a troublesome chore now, it will save you the discomfort later.

If water and soap are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub instead.

Washing hands

(2) Eat fresh fruits and vegtables.

By supplying your body with nutrients and vitamins, this will help to build up your natural immune system. This will allow you to fight off infections better. Foods are also better than dietary supplements as you take in the whole nutritional package. A healthy balanced diet with lean meats, poultry, fish, low-fat dairy, legumes, whole grains can also provide your body with all of the nutrients for a healthier immune system.

Fresh fruits and vegetables

(3) Drink water regularly.

Dehydration weakens your immune system. Drinking water regularly can also help wash cold and flu viruses from your throat to your stomach where they cannot survive. It is important that you reduce your consumption of soft drinks and caffeinated beverages as they generally act as diuretics (which increase the excretion rate of water from our bodies).

(4) Exercise regularly.

This is part of the regimen of keeping a healthy body. Aerobic exercise speeds up your heart to pump larger quantities of blood; makes you breathe faster to help transfer oxygen from your lungs to your blood; and makes you sweat once your body heats up. Like a healthy diet, this will help to strengthen your immune system. Whether it is taking a simple walk or a gym workout, a daily exercise routine can go a long way.

(5) Get sufficient sleep each day.

The lack of sleep is one of the major causes of our immune system being suppressed. Given the modern urban lifestyle, many people are often getting by with insufficient sleep. A sustained period of late nights will eventually weaken your immune system, such that before you even know it, you are down with the flu. Most adults require about 7 or 8 hours of sleep. Make the effort to sleep early, and you'll feel refreshed and more energized the following day.

Sound sleeping

(6) Keep yourself warm.

During the winter season, it is important that you keep your immune system strong by not subjecting yourself to the cold elements. Wear warm clothes when you have to stay outdoors for a prolonged period. Wear thick socks to keep your feet warm. Set your home heating to the right temperature (18-21 degrees Celsius or 64-70 degrees Fahrenheit). 

(7) Take things easy. Relax.

Stress is one of the main contributing factor to any illness, as it weakens your immune system. Try to reduce your stress level every day. Take a break once in a while. Do things that you enjoy. Pamper yourself. 

(8) Don't smoke.

Cigarette smoke paralyses the cilia or hairlike cells lining the nose and airways, that could have swept away the flu virus before it infects you. Moreover, not only does cigarette smoke suppress your immune system, it also irritates the tissue, making you more susceptible to the flu virus.

(9) Keep a distance from people down with the flu.

This might sound anti-social, but it is a way to lower your risk of getting the infection yourself. Staying too close to them will only put yourself at risk from becoming the next flu victim. Moreover, if it is your family member who is down with the flu, you will also be in a better position to help him or her if you stay healthy yourself. 

On the other hand, if you are sick with flu-like symptoms, do the responsible thing by limiting contact with others to avoid infecting them.

(10) Get a flu shot.

Discuss with your family doctor first about this option. Being familiar with your medical background, your doctor is able to advise you on whether it is necessary for you to do so.

While some doctors have expressed their doubts about the effectiveness of a flu shot, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. (According to the CDC, the flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be most common.)

Under CDC's current guidelines (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm), the following individuals should consider getting the flu vaccine.

  • Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the 2011-2012 vaccines are available. (As children who are younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu but are too young to be vaccinated, those who care for them should be vaccinated instead.)
  • People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.
  • Health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk people to keep from spreading flu to high risk people.
Stay Healthy During Flu Season