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Staying Healthy This Cold & Flu Season

You might have already gotten this year’s flu vaccine, and that’s a good thing: Each year, about 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and over 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations in the US involve people 65 years and over. The CDC explains that, as we age, our human system weakens. But adults of every age can benefit from the protection of a flu shot. Unfortunately, there’s no vaccination for the common cold, even though it can make you feel miserable. For that, you need to be your own defensive coordinator.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and those around you:

  • The CDC is already warning that this influenza season will be a bad one. So if you haven’t already gotten a flu shot, call your doctor’s office to see if you should still have one. Most drugstore chains offer the shot and it may be free. If you’re 65 or older, besides the regular dose flu vaccine there’s a newer flu vaccine with a higher dose designed just for seniors.
  • Take daily precautions to avoid getting and spreading germs and to stay healthy. Avoid close contact with anyone who’s sick. If you get sick, try to stay at home and keep your distance from other people to help them avoid getting sick, too. Use a tissue over your mouth and nose whenever you cough or sneeze, and throw it out as soon as possible—don’t leave it lying around. Wash your hands often to kill germs; use an alcohol-based hand wash if you’re not near soap and water. Also, protect your hands from the effects of frequent washing by applying a protective moisturizer twice a day or as needed—this can prevent cracks in your skin, a gateway for germs. Try not to touch your face much; that way, if you do touch something germy, you’ll reduce your chances to spreading those germs to your eyes, nose and mouth, where they can make you sick. Practice pro-health habits: Get plenty of exercise and sleep, and eat a nutritious food diet with lots of fluids.
  • Call your doctor right away if you start to feel any flu symptoms, such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, fatigue and possibly vomiting and diarrhea. He or she might want to treat you with flu medications that can help prevent complications and possibly shorten the duration of the illness; these include the antivirals oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).