How to help prevent the flu

MICHELLE WILLIAMS  The Mainstream

While the weather may still be deciding its perfect temperature, the flu has hit the streets in hopes of finding new friends.

In addition to the basic cold symptoms, the flu symptoms include fever, body aches, nausea, headache and chills, according to the Mayo Clinic. With symptoms like these, it can be helpful to have a few preventative tips.

The flu shot is one way to reduce suffering. According to the CDC, the “vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about 2 weeks after vaccination.” For most, these protect against infection. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital explains in the Sleep Number Blog, “When you get the flu vaccine, you boost the immune system’s response by creating productive antibodies.”

Another tip is hand washing, a very safe and effective practice for keeping germs away. The CDC also recommends that hands be kept away from eyes, nose or mouth as the germs could spread that way.

One other tip from the Journal of Sleep Research is sleep. This journal reports that“teens who get less sleep tend to get sick more.” According to the Sleep Number Blog, sleeping really can help: “Sleeping lets your body direct nearly all its resources to your immune system.” It can take up to three times longer for your body to fight different illnesses when you’re sleep deprived, according to the blog.

Diwakar Balachandran, director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas in Houston writes,“Studies have shown that people who are sleep deprived also get less protection from flu vaccines than those who are getting adequate sleep.”

For students, staying up late to study or to blow off some steam on the weekends can negatively impact their sleep schedule for the week. One tip to better sleep is to reduce evening exposure to technology screens. “Blue lights from technology can mess with your sleep rhythms,” Jessica Brake, a licensed counselor in Roseburg, explains.

Avoiding blue light can be easy. To start, try leaving the technology alone for an hour or more before you plan on going to bed. Instead of reading an e-book, read a paper copy of the book. Let your mind shut down and relax naturally before you go to sleep.

A few other tips to try come from The National Sleep Foundation’s website. First, start by winding down. Give your body time to shift into sleep mode. Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock so you can stay asleep. Next, practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as a hot shower or writing. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime away from bright lights can promote sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

There are also some physical tips to get better sleep. The first is to try exercising daily, preferably three hours before bed, according to a Student Health site published by the Oregon State. Vigorous exercise is great, but even light exercise is better than no exercise, according to The National Sleep Foundation.

Another suggestion would be to avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. The last tip would be to avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Both can disrupt sleep, according to The National Sleep Foundation. Also, avoid eating heavy meals later in the evening, about two or three hours before bedtime. If needed, have a light snack no less than 45 minutes before bed.

All of the above practices and tips can make for a healthier flu season. At the onset of any flu like symptoms, the CDC recommends if “you have symptoms of flu and are in a high-risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider.”

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