With fall weather here and winter on the horizon, past flu and cold experiences can heighten anxiety, especially for cancer patients. You may find yourself thinking: “I was so sick last year.” “Will I get the flu again this year?” “Are these germs inescapable?” “How can I combat those pesky viruses?”
Flu and cold germs are picked up by inhaling little droplets in the air from an infected person who has recently coughed, sneezed or talked into the same air you’re breathing. Viruses and other germs can linger on surfaces for up to 48 hours, so you can be exposed long after an infected person has been in a specific area.
These practical steps will help you protect yourself from the flu and other viruses.
Increase your plant-based food intake such as fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and whole grains. Eating fruits and vegetables from all the colors of the rainbow will provide plenty of antioxidants to fuel your immune system.
No matter how well you eat, it can be difficult to get adequate amounts of vitamin D. And although exposure to sunlight can help your skin cells produce vitamin D (also known as the sunshine vitamin), you can’t rely on the sun as we head into an Iowa winter. Ask your doctor about having your vitamin D levels checked to see if you need a supplement.
Several times a day, especially after being out in the public, protect yourself by washing your hands. Spend 20 seconds or so thoroughly washing with soap and water. Hand sanitizer is also effective.
Scientists are learning that moist air seems to minimize our exposure to flu viruses. According to Ted Myatt, Sc.D., an environmental scientist in Boston, “…droplets that contain the (flu) virus shrink quickly in arid environments, allowing them to float around longer; in moist air those same droplets might remain heavy and fall to the floor faster.” Investing in a humidifier might be a small price to pay for staying healthy.
Staying hydrated is an important element to staying healthy. Drinking half your weight in ounces of water each day provides your body with the moisture it needs. Add the juice from half a lemon to a glass of cold water or cup of hot water to kill two birds with one stone – detox and hydrate.
Be sure to get seven to nine hours of restful sleep each night. Our immune system is designed to protect us from flu, colds and other germs, and it needs those restful hours to rejuvenate.
The flu vaccine plays an important part in protecting us from certain strains of the flu. If you have or have had cancer or are age 65 or older, you’re at higher risk for complications from the flu. Consult your doctor before getting the flu vaccine if your immune system is compromised due to illness or treatment, such as chemotherapy.
For an overview of benefits and risks, see an earlier blog post: Protect Yourself Now from the Flu.
The Centers for Disease Control is the leading resource for flu prevention and treatment. Get the facts at the CDC website.
Patients of The Ghosh Center can be immunized at our office. You and your family members can also get flu shots at one of many local pharmacies. These links will take you to flu shot locations, many of which offer coupons and rewards.