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Hoping for a flu-free winter

As the holidays creep from around the corner, with them, flu-season comes in full swing. We all dread this, and at some point, anticipate ways to prevent getting sick. The number one way to protect ourselves from a cold or flu virus is to wash our hands thoroughly and frequently. Although hand-washing is a good defense, it’s not the only weapon in your arsenal. Here are a few more ways to be proactive for your health this winter:

• Get a flu shot. Some people prefer to avoid getting a flu shot because they want to build up their natural immunities or they believe the shots can make them sick. But most flu shots contain an inactive virus that will not make you sick, and will only trigger your body’s immune system response to a foreign invader. It can take a couple of weeks for full immunity to develop, so it’s possible to still get sick even after a flu shot has been administered.

• Quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes and cigars can affect the immune system and also compromise the body in a number of different ways. Smoking can disable mechanisms in your breathing passageways that serve as natural repellants to the flu. Smoking also can create holes in the lining of lower air passages, and such holes can make people more susceptible to the flu virus and other illnesses.

• Avoid others who are sick. People with the flu can spread it to others up to six feet away. Flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets of bodily fluids expelled during coughing, sneezing and even talking. This is why doctors recommend that anyone who has the flu stay home from work or school until they are fully recovered.

• Get plenty of rest and good food. Adequate sleep and a healthy diet can strengthen your immune system. It’s important to stay hydrated, eat fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C and prioritize getting a good night’s sleep each night.