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How to Prepare for Flu Season During the COVID-19 Pandemic

16 min read

2020 could have upended each side of normalcy we each love and detest, however one factor stays the identical: With the fall comes chilly and flu season. And this 12 months could also be worse than ever if circumstances of the flu and COVID-19 each surge, creating what Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly warned shall be the potential for a “twindemic.”

Luckily, there are precautions every of us can take to decrease the probabilities of getting sick, with both the flu or COVID-19, and improve the probabilities of recovering quicker if we’re unfortunate sufficient to catch one among the many viruses that’ll be swarming in only a month or two.

“You can control your own destiny by keeping your immune function strong so that should you become exposed to a viral pathogen, your body is poised to defend itself,” says Charles Elder, M.D., main care internist and doctor lead for the complementary and integrative drugs program at Kaiser Permanente Northwest.

8 Ways to Prepare for Flu Season During the COVID-19 Pandemic

1. Get Your Flu Shot

The influenza vaccine lowers your danger of getting the flu by 40 to 60 p.c on any given 12 months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (That’s assuming the circulating viruses match the strains they crafted the method for.)

Yet solely 45 p.c of individuals over the age of 18 received their shot in 2018/19—and most of these numbers had been in individuals above 50, reports the CDC.

Part of the purpose is entry. Another is skepticism: People don’t assume vaccines are secure (they’re, all our specialists guarantee). And an enormous half is as a result of most individuals don’t assume a 40 to 60 p.c likelihood of safety sounds very excessive, so getting the shot isn’t value the effort.

“Even though it’s not 100-percent effective at preventing the flu, some protection is better than none,” says Sandra Kesh, M.D., deputy medical director and infectious illness specialist at Westmed Medical Group in Westchester, NY.

For starters, the vaccine lowers your probabilities of getting influenza by roughly half. “It’s important to remember the flu is a formidable infection in its own right. Influenza can cause inflammation of the lungs, heart, brain, and other organs, leading to respiratory failure, encephalitis, heart failure, sepsis, and death, in the worst cases,” Kesh explains.

At the very least, it knocks you right into a deep gap of snot, aches, and pure distress for at the very least every week, if not longer.

What’s extra, reducing your probabilities of getting influenza lowers your probabilities of getting every little thing from a nasty chilly to the novel coronavirus itself. “Anytime your body is infected with a virus, there’s the potential for you to be more vulnerable to other infections, including COVID-19,” Kesh explains.

To high it off, if you happen to do get the flu regardless of having received the vaccine, that shot lowers the probabilities of you creating problems from the virus, together with issues like pneumonia.

Everyone ought to get the flu vaccine until your physician advises you not to, Elder provides (the important exception being if you happen to’ve had a extreme allergic response to the shot in the previous). Anyone who’s pregnant, very outdated (65+), or very younger (between 6 months and 5 years outdated) ought to completely get the shot.

And the sooner the higher—it takes about two weeks to construct antibodies from the shot and influenza exercise in the U.S. begins circulating in November, so get your shot by the finish of October at the newest, provides Elder.

Talk to your employer about in the event that they’re providing any sort of vaccine program, even out of the workplace, like the CDC director is currently encouraging firms to do. But it’s also possible to schedule your shot at an area pharmacy, physician’s workplace, and even in some faculties.

2. Keep Exercising—however Don’t Go too Hard

Working out often (at a reasonable depth) improves your immune protection and lowers your danger of getting sick, stories a 2019 evaluation in the Journal of Sport and Health Science. In truth, a single exercise boosts your immune fortification. Try to get your coronary heart charge up barely for at the very least 30 minutes a day, even simply for a stroll.

To bolster your immune system to present a powerful protection towards the flu and COVID-19, minimize reduce on the HIIT and two-a-days for the season: The identical evaluation factors out that an athlete’s at a a lot larger danger of getting sick in periods of intense training and competitors. “Exercise should remove stress from, not create stress for, the physiology,” Elder provides.

3. Keep Stress Under Control

“High levels of stress and anxiety can make us more vulnerable to viral infections,” Elder factors out. Meditation and mindfulness are two of the best-known stress reducers. If you don’t have already got an everyday apply, start with this 10-Minute Meditation Session for Beginners.

Even small actions to preserve a optimistic mindset can assist preserve stress from getting to you, provides Nicole Avena, P.hD., visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University. Her go-to: When a scenario is exhausting or annoying, attempt to checklist three good issues about it. Maybe you had to take off work to assist your brother-in-law transfer once more, however at the very least it made your associate joyful, you bought a exercise in, and also you helped somebody.

4. Up Your Produce Intake

“Micronutrient deficiencies can have an impact on how well your body is able to defend against colds and flu,” says Avena. “Food in general can be your best ally when it comes to keeping your immune system strong and staying healthy.”

We don’t have definitive knowledge on which nutritional vitamins and minerals have an effect on your immune system most, however aiming to concentrate on getting all kinds of vegetables and fruit in a day will up your fortification. Avena provides that eating meals wealthy in prebiotics (that’s garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, oats, apples, flaxseed, and seaweed) can assist preserve a healthy intestine setting which is essential to health, whereas antioxidants (walnuts, pecans, salmon, berries, leafy greens, ginger, and herbs) struggle towards oxidative stress that may harm immune cells.

Fresh produce is all the time finest, but when that isn’t accessible for you, a multivitamin can assist ship essential micronutrients. (Avena likes clear manufacturers Vitafusion and Frunutta.)

5. Spice It Up

“Many common household spices possess immunomodulatory properties, which help support your immune system,” Elder says. Largely, this follows the identical reasoning as eating extra complete meals and produce: Spices assist to promote correct digestive perform and are wealthy in antioxidants, serving to to set up a powerful and healthy immune system. Most even have their very own useful options. Cumin and turmeric, for occasion, have been proven to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, Elder says. He advises together with healthy spices—like cumin, turmeric, coriander, ginger and fennel—in your day by day weight loss plan.

6. Sip on Warm, Sugar-free Drinks

Staying hydrated is essential to giving your organs all the crucial instruments to struggle off infections, like the flu and COVID-19, and preserve you healthy. But come fall, commerce chilly drinks for heat ones: In addition to the latter being much more soothing (good for stress), Ayurvedic custom—the indigenous healthcare system of India—follows that something chilly or candy (particularly each) will improve “kapha” dosha, which is the physiologic precept that promotes mucus promotion, Elder explains.

Besides being uncomfortable, extra mucus in the respiratory tract is an indication of imbalance—issues are beginning to get off observe. “It’s a sign we may be heading for, and are in a state more vulnerable to, trouble,” Elder provides.

7. Get Strict About Sleep

Proper sleep is one among the high immune boosters famous by all three specialists. “Sleep is crucial to keeping your immune system healthy and restoring balance to your body overall—especially when the weather gets cold and the relaxation of summer comes to an end,” Avena explains.

Aim for a constant 7 to 8 hours an evening, however if you happen to get up lots in the evening or are drained in the morning nonetheless, add one other 30 to 60 minutes. “Quality counts and if you’re not getting a full, restful 7 to 8 hours, you’re not helping your immune health,” she provides.

Also, attempt to go to mattress early (10 p.m. is right) and get up early—this syncs along with your pure circadian rhythm, taking away the physiological stress that late nights can lead to, Elder provides.

8. Wash Your Hands

The day by day hygiene of our pandemic lives is definitely the advisable hygiene to stop all viruses, together with the chilly and flu. Hand washing, masks carrying, and social distancing are extremely essential if you happen to don’t need to get sick this season with both the flu or COVID-19, Kesh reminds.

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