The COVID-19 pandemic may be top of mind, but another dangerous respiratory illness—flu—will soon start circulating in earnest. Here’s what you can do to prepare.
Flu is always around, but cases increase in the fall, peak between December and February, and slack off in the spring, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To prevent flu season from catching you off guard, you can:
- Get a flu shot before flu season takes off. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot before the end of October each year. Your body needs about two weeks after you get the shot to start forming protective antibodies, so if you get vaccinated in early fall, your immune system will be ready by the time flu season is raging.
- Eat for your immune system. Include foods in your diet that feature immune system-supporting nutrients. You can find vitamin C in fruit, bell peppers and broccoli, protein in lean meat, eggs and beans, vitamin D in fortified cereals and dairy products, and beta-carotene in tomatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Move more. Exercise can help rid the lungs of germs, help antibodies move faster through the blood and reduce stress hormones, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- Get in a good hygiene groove. If you start practicing preventive steps now—such as washing hands often, not touching your face, and sanitizing frequently touched objects and surfaces—they’ll be second nature by flu season.
Let the Deep Clean Begin
If someone in your home comes down with a respiratory illness, such as the flu or COVID-19, it’s important to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces as soon as possible to reduce the chances of others getting sick. What’s the difference between cleaning and disinfecting? The former removes dirt and some, but not all, germs from a surface, and the latter kills germs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC recommends regularly cleaning surfaces with soap and water, and then using an Environmental Protection Agency-registered disinfectant or a diluted bleach solution to disinfect. Don’t miss these germ hotspots:
- Cellphones (an alcohol-based wipe may be best)
- Desks and tabletops
- Doorknobs and cabinet knobs or handles
- Kitchen and bathroom counters
- Light switches
- Refrigerator and microwave door handles
- Sink faucets