How to Prepare for Flu Season


How to Prepare for Flu Season

Diabetes.The Flu
Frieda Wiley, PharmD
By Frieda Wiley, PharmD
Sept 09, 2019 - Updated Sept 11, 2020
Carmel Fitzgerald, NP
Medically Reviewed ByCarmel Fitzgerald, NP
Pharmacist holding flu medications

With flu season bearing down on us, in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu. The single best defense against the flu is an annual flu shot.

The CDC recommends receiving the flu shot by the end of October. However, it is better to get your flu shot later, than not to get it at all. So even if you miss the recommended deadline, there is still time to get vaccinated.

In addition to getting your annual flu shot, you’ll want to focus on good health and hygiene habits to prevent the flu, or to be prepared in case someone in your household gets the flu. While none of these suggestions are foolproof, together they can lessen your odds of getting the flu and other nasty seasonal bugs. Here are steps to take to prepare for flu season.

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6 Ways to Prepare for Flu Season

The importance of receiving a flu shot cannot be underestimated, particularly in the time of COVID-19. The CDC recommends early fall as the optimal time to receive a flu shot, as it takes approximately two weeks after you’ve received your vaccine, for the antibodies which protect against the flu to develop.

Flu shots are available from health care providers and at pharmacies nationwide. At many pharmacies, you don’t even need an appointment to get your flu shot.

While the flu shot offers a great deal of protection against the flu, it is still possible for you to contract the flu, even if you’ve received the shot. That’s why it is smart to prepare for the flu season ahead of time by stocking up on supplies, replacing expired medicines, replacing batteries in your thermometer, and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Stock Up On Supplies

Before the flu season starts, take time to stock up on supplies such as tissues, hand soap, hand sanitizer, and paper towels. You may also want to make sure you have plenty of healthy, easy-to-make, comforting meals and snacks, such as soup or natural fruit juice popsicles.

If you have children, you may also want to purchase some “sick-day” activities, such as coloring books, or puzzles.

Replace Expired Medicines

Before the flu season hits, conduct an inventory of your medicine cabinet. Check expiration dates on decongestants, sore throat lozenges or spray, and cough syrups. Discard any expired items, and purchase replacement items ahead of time.

Test Your Thermometer

Before flu season arrives in force, take time to test your digital thermometer to make sure it has batteries, and it is working correctly. If you don’t have a thermometer, be sure to pick one up before flu season begins.

Adopt a Healthy Diet

Ahead of flu season, it’s a smart idea to pay greater attention to your overall health. Begin by replacing heavily processed foods with nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Fresh fruits and vegetables supply your body with antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients that help keep your immune system strong. For example, citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit are loaded with vitamin C. Beans, chicken, fish, and whole grains such as rice and corn are good sources of B vitamins.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Getting enough sleep is critical to many areas of health, including preventing the flu. The body repairs damaged cells while you sleep. Skimping on sleep interrupts this process, so the body is already worn out before it can start fighting viruses.

We are all different, so the amount of sleep we need varies from person to person. Listen to your body and observe how you feel and respond to different amounts of sleep to figure out how much sleep your body needs.

Exercise Regularly

The American Heart Association recommends you shoot for least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week or 75 minutes of heart-pumping activity a week.

You can spread it out by aiming to get 20-30 minutes of physical activity a day. Exercise improves circulation and boosts your immune system’s ability to ward off disease.

3 Tips for Preventing the Flu

The best way to prevent the flu is to ensure that everyone in your household gets a flu shot. The flu is particularly dangerous to children and adults over the age of 65, but complications of the flu can have serious health consequences for individuals of all ages.

In addition to receiving your flu shot early in the fall, you can help prevent the flu by following smart hygiene practices such as disinfecting high-touch surfaces in your home regularly, using paper towels instead of cloth towels, and washing or sanitizing your hands frequently.

Disinfect Surfaces

Disinfecting surfaces in your home can help prevent the flu. Focus on surfaces that are touched the most. These include doorknobs, toilet seats, faucets, remote controls, refrigerator door handles, light switches, and countertops.

Wash and Sanitize Hands Frequently

To prevent the flu, it is important to regularly wash and/or sanitize your hands. This is because we all tend to touch our faces too often. Since the easiest way for viruses and other germs to invade your body is to enter through openings to the body, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth, it is vital that our hands are clean during flu season.

Also, while many people have come to rely on hand sanitizers as a substitute for handwashing, many people do not use them properly. Just as with hand washing, you should rub hand sanitizer over your hands for 20-30 seconds.

Use Paper Products Instead of Cloth Towels

To prevent the flu, consider switching to paper products for hand drying in the kitchen and the bathroom. People who have the flu can be contagious before any symptoms appear, and switching to disposable paper towels can prevent you from contracting the virus through a shared dishcloth or hand towel.

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Flu Season and COVID-19

This flu season we will be facing an additional threat from COVID-19 which means that we all need to do everything in our power to protect one another from getting sick. The same public health guidelines that have been issued to prevent the spread of COVID-19, can also help prevent the flu.

Remember to stay 6 feet from others, stay home if you’re not feeling well, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and be sure to wear your face mask in public, or when you cannot socially distance from others.

Frieda Wiley, PharmD

Frieda Wiley, PharmD

Frieda Wiley PharmD, RPh, is a pharmacist, contract medical writer, and consultant. In addition to her consulting work, she has more than 100 publications to her credit, including Costco Connection, WebMD, Arthritis Today, US News & Report, and AARP. Frieda is a regular contributor to the RxSaver blog.

Carmel Fitzgerald, NP

Carmel Fitzgerald, NP

Carmel Fitzgerald, NP, is a seasoned adult health nurse practitioner in Boston, MA with over 30 years of experience. Most recently, she was recruited to serve as the coordinator for the new Boston Medical Center Lung Cancer Screening Program. Carmel is a contributing author to numerous medical research publications. She is a member of the Massachusetts Coalition of Nurse Practitioners, the American Heart Association and the Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence. She completed her BSN at the University of Massachusetts and MSN at Northeastern University both with honors.

The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.