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It’s the hap-hap-happiest time of the year! Unless you or a family member comes down with the flu! 

At this time, we are close to a situation where a young woman has been hospitalized in the ICU for over a week with complications from the flu.  It has attacked her lungs so that she is on a ventilator and a special machine to oxygenate her blood.  Visiting her and our deep concern has prompted several important conversations with health professionals about the flu and how to avoid it. While her situation is extreme, it’s far too easy to falsely believe that the flu is “no big deal.” Our health pro friends have cared for individuals who pass away in the hospital from the flu and are adamant on the need to be personally proactive.

As a result of these conversations, I’ve done some additional research on my own for  tips from health pros to stay healthy for the Christmas holidays and winter months ahead.  These tips are easy and cost next to nothing!  Protecting ourselves and our family from the flu could be the nicest and most important Christmas gift of the season!

First, there is a very interesting FAQ article about this year’s flu season at the Center for Disease Control. (CDC.) I have included the link to this at the bottom of this article.  The CDC is very candid with the fact that a flu shot, while essential, is NOT a cure-all!  We must still be proactive in our personal defense. 

Second, for most children and healthy adults, if we do get the flu, it’s mild with a cough, sore throat, fever, muscle and body aches.  A few days of resting and avoiding others will do the trick. 

However, if you become very sick, do not hesitate to contact your doctor for medicines that fight the flu. These drugs (called antivirals) work best if given within 48 hours of when symptoms start. CDC recommends that people who are at high risk of developing serious flu complications and who have symptoms during the flu season be treated with antiviral drugs as quickly as possible without waiting for confirmatory testing. People who are not at high risk of developing serious flu complications may also be treated with flu antiviral drugs, especially if treatment can begin within 48 hours.

Based on my conversations and research, here’s my list of 20 tips to avoid the flu this year. Some are obvious and some are not! Be sure to read through all 20 and see which ones you can add to your arsenal.

1.  Get Your Flu Vaccine! This is the number one preventative measure.  But please note that the flu shot does NOT cover all strains of the flu.  This fact is emphasized in our conversation with the nurses at the hospital when we visit our friend.

There is a great effort made to provide the vaccine that forecasters predict will be most common type(s) of flu, but, “there are many different flu viruses and they are constantly changing. The composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses. Flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses (depending on the vaccine) that research suggests will be most common,” reports the CDC.

The flu vaccine varies in how well it works, and unfortunately, some people can become infected with a flu virus that a flu vaccine is designed to protect against, despite getting vaccinated. Protection provided by flu vaccination can vary widely, based in part on health and age factors of the person getting vaccinated. It also can vary based on the match between the vaccine viruses used to produce vaccine and circulating viruses that season. In general, a flu vaccine works best among healthy younger adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses may develop less immunity after vaccination.

Flu vaccination is not a perfect product, but it is the best way to protect against flu infection.”

Even if you do get the flu after a flu shot, studies show that you will be less sick and spend less time at the hospital if it becomes serious – if you’ve had a flu shot!

2.  Get it ASAP!  It takes two weeks for the antibodies that provide protection to develop in your body.  If you are exposed before those antibodies fully develop, it may result in you becoming ill with the flu before the vaccine begins to protect you.

3.  Stay home when ill: This is especially important if you have contact with infants younger than 6 months, seniors, or frail individuals.  The CDC says:  – “if you have the flu, or think you may have the flu, stay home!”  I add to this: If you think you are too busy to stay home, remind yourself of those you could possibly infect.  If you don’t have the heart to stay home for yourself, think of staying home as a service to them!

It’s OK to think twice before you go to Church if you are under the weather and exhibiting flu symptoms!

4. Avoid contact with those who are ill: 
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.  It is not rude to say to someone who is clearly not feeling well, “Please don’t take this personally, but I just can’t sit next to you today.”
Other than the flu shot, what can we do?  I’ve done some research to find suggestions from other health pros and here’s what I’ve found:

5.  Establish and maintain good hand-washing practices.  Wash and dry frequently: Become absolutely fastidious and neurotic about washing hands and using an anti-bacterial spray as often as possible.  Remind family members to wash their hands every time they come back home after school, work, shopping, etc. – especially after Church when you’ve been shaking hands, in a large group, hugging, etc.

Then don’t forget to dry them!  “I wash my hands often and pat them fully dry so they don’t get flaky, which can allow germs in.  Then I moisturize.” (Diane Berson, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital)

6. Start using a saline nose spray several times a day: The additional health professionals we have visited with this week (a hospice nurse, a nurse anesthesiologist and a NICU nurse) all agree that a saline nose spray used several times a day can be extremely helpful!

An intensive care newborn nurse at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah says:  “The germs and viruses that cause the flu enter through the nose.  They land right in the hollow upper tip inside the nostrils and stay there to multiply!  If you’ll just keep that area clean and spray it with the saline spray from Sam’s Club, you’ll be amazed at how you’ll avoid the flu!”

She sent me a picture of what she uses, which is below. Our conversation sent me looking for more information on the Internet.  Dr. Oz is in complete agreement with these friends and says:

“Nasal sprays are sterile, take seconds to use, are inexpensive, and have been shown to be safe and effective for preventing and treating cold and flu symptoms. There are smaller versions for kids. Using it three or more times a day is a wonderful and safe preventive measure for everyone in the family.”

He elaborates: Airborne pathogens enter through your nose and mouth and begin to encroach on your body’s protective barriers. As they’re absorbed, they can spark an immune reaction and cause a cold or flu. The chances of getting sick are increased if your nasal passages are dry, a common occurrence in cold weather.  Without any lubrication, the nose can’t flush out bacteria, which results in a safe haven for germs. This simple remedy helps to flush out mucus and bacteria. Adding moisture to the nasal passages also helps to combat stuffiness, congestion and further infection. Look for a spray that has purified water and sodium chloride to get the purest, most effective spray.

7. Use Vaseline inside the nose: Our hospice nurse friend says: “An additional measure for protecting the nasal passages where the flu germs enter is to dab a bit of Vaseline on the inside of the nostrils as another barrier for germs.”

8.  Get a gentle, daily detox:  For many years we have been promoting My Miracle Detox as a significant method of keeping your internal organs clean and well-functioning.  Many people find that colds and bugs are greatly reduced once they start regularly drinking this product.  CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW.

9. Cover your mouth and nose: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

10. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth: Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.  (I think we’re all guilty of not being as conscious about this as we should.)

11. Mr. Clean and disinfectant wipes to the rescue: Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.  At work… “don’t forget that keys, doorknobs, elevator buttons, the arm rests on chairs, etc. are used by multiple people.  Use a good disinfectant at least once a week, even if it looks clean.  It’s just basic hygiene.  Rhinoviruses can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours!”  (Philip Tierno, PhD, author of The Secret Life of Germs) 

Don’t forget about your cell phone! “As a doctor, I need to keep my cell phone with me at all times.  During the day, I might place it on a counter or use it in between opening doors, pushing elevator buttons, or shaking hands with patients or colleagues. Cleaning my phone with a sanitizer wipe regularly cuts back on the germs that get near my face, ears and mouth.”  (Dr.Stafford Broumand)

As an additional measure: Wash your pillowcases frequently! It’s not even a bad idea to use a clean one each night during the flu season so that you don’t sleep and lay in germs that have been acquired and may be released as you breathe, exhale (and sometimes drip a bit) from your nose and mouth while you rest.

12.  Remember the basics: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods and watch your weight.  One of the nurses we visited with says that the complications our friend is battling at the hospital can be even more difficult with excess body weight.

13. Put on your gym smarts: “Gyms are crawling with sweaty towels, dirty sneakers and germy grossness.  Instead of sitting directly on a mat or bench, I’ll place a clean towel on it first. Any equipment that I have to touch – like free weights or handlebars, I’ll clean first with antibacterial wipes.” (Franci Cohen, group-exercise instructor and owner of Fuel Fitness, Brooklyn New York.)

14.  Hold your breath, then breathe out: When I’m walking past another person and he is sneezing or coughing, I gently and slowly breathe out until I’m beyond the 6-10 foot zone around him. This keeps me from inhaling the air he just contaminated.”  (Stafford Broumand, MD, a plastic surgeon in New York City.)

15.  Use your own pen: With an immune-compromised child at home (my son got a bone-marrow transplant when he was just a year old for an unusual illness,)  I’ve become fastidious about bringing my own pen to the bank, grocery store, doctor’s office, etc.  I even touch the ATM with it. That way, I avoid picking up germs I might spread to my child … and myself!” 

16.  Beyond the saline spray, pamper your nose: “I do a daily nasal rinse with a bulb syringe to flush out viruses and help clear secretions. You can buy nasal saline irrigation at the drugstore – I like NeilMed Sinus Rinse – or make your own: Mix 3 teaspoons iodide-free salt and 1 tsp. baking soda.  Add 1 tsp. of this to 1 cup of distilled or cooled boiled water.”  (Jeffrey Demain MD Director of the Alergy Asthma and Immunology center of Alaska)

17.  Get plenty of water and liquids:As a paramedic, I never know what germs I’ll be encountering.  So I drink water constantly to flush toxins out through the lymph system. During cold and flu season, my EMT partner and I start our day by making and drinking juice.  We use kale, broccoli, apple, arugula, parsley, cucumber, carrots, swiss chard, lemon and mint.  That way if I don’t get the recommended servings of whole fruits and veggies every day (who does?) juicing allows me to drink that amount in a concentrated form.”  (Kristina Economou, a paramedic in Monterey, CA)

18.  Avoid hand railings and drinking fountains: “I never use water fountains or the railings on stairs. They’ve got the prints of hundreds of germy hands (and mouths!) that don’t get sanitized as often as other surfaces, like sinks.  And I always use my own water bottle, thank you very much.”  (Cheryl Lassiter, a kindergarten teacher in Atlanta)

19.  Embrace essential oils: “I’ll use a few drops of lavender essential oil as a natural hand sanitizer on the go.” (Frank Lipman, MD, integrative-medicine practitioner and founder and director of Eleven-Eleven Wellness Center in New York City).  You can visit to learn more about essential oils!

20.  Call It A Day – Get Enough Rest: “My strategy is to double down on trying to get enough sleep, even if it just a power nap on a plane.  Research shows that our bodies need 7-8 hours of sleep in order to stimulate an immune response from our ‘natural killer cells,’ which attack viruses.  Sleep is my most reliable defense against infection.”  (David Katz, MD, founder of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and author of “Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well”)

Center for Disease Control FAQ for the 2019-2020 Flu Season Article

There you have it! I know there are several in this list that my family and I will implement immediately and hope you will as well!

Here’s to a flu-free Holiday and winter!

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. 

She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents of eleven. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox.  CLICK HERE