By Lina Younes
I’ve been following recent reports on the flu outbreak across the United States. While seasonal influenza usually peaks in January and February, this year emergency rooms across the country have been reporting an increased number of hospitalizations of patients with severe flu-like symptoms early in the season. So what can people do to protect themselves? Well, first of all, if you haven’t done so already, you should get the vaccine for this year’s seasonal flu. Furthermore, good hygiene practices are powerful tools to stay healthy during flu season and year round.
What are some of the preventive measures that you should take immediately?
- Wash your hands well and often.
- Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing. Preferably cough into your elbow.
- When you use a tissue, throw it away and then wash your hands, again.
- In the absence of soap and water, you may use a hand sanitizer to clean your hands.
- If you are sick with the flu, stay home. Don’t spread your germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Other healthy habits: eat well, drink plenty of fluids, get enough sleep, and stay active.
I can’t reiterate enough the importance of washing your hands to prevent getting the flu. Did you know that the flu virus can live between two to eight hours on a hard surface? That might make you think twice when touching some items shared by many people like a door knob, elevator buttons, an office phone, a computer keyboard, public bathrooms, etc. Personally, what I’ve been doing lately after I wash my hands in a public bathroom is that I take the same paper towel that I used to dry my hands to open the bathroom door and/or press the elevator button. While I haven’t done an official science experiment on this issue, I have noticed that I have had fewer colds since I adopted that common practice. It has definitely worked for me. Hope it works for you, too.
Do you have any healthy tips that you would like to share with us? My parting words of wisdom: wash your hands! Stay healthy.
About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.