4 Easy Ways to Fight the Flu

For healthy individuals, influenza, commonly known as flu, lasts only seven to 10 days. But its symptoms can be severe from extreme fatigue and fever to body aches, chills, and more. Fortunately, the virus can be prevented and its symptoms suppressed. Follow these steps to keep you and your family healthy this year.

Wash Your Hands

It sounds so simple, but perhaps the best way to prevent catching or spreading the flu is by washing your hands. Although most people cleanse their hands several times a day, they generally don't wash them for long enough. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds with antibacterial soap, paying close attention to the areas around fingernails and between fingers. After you're done, dry them with a paper towel, and use that towel to cover your hand while turning off the faucet.

Stop It From Spreading

Along these lines, it's important to keep surface areas, such as phones, keyboards, and desks, as clean as possible. Also be mindful of commonly touched surfaces, like doorknobs and water-fountain handles. When you do come in contact with them, be sure to wash your hands afterward. Since it's impossible to keep your hands clean at all times, the CDC recommends avoiding direct contact with eyes, nose, or mouth—and avoiding close contact with anyone who is sick.

Try Alternative Remedies

Antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu, can help treat the virus, ease your symptoms, or shorten the flu life cycle by stopping the spread of the virus within the upper respiratory tract. The key is to take these medications as soon as possible, within 12 to 48 hours after your initial symptoms. As with all medications, you should talk to your doctor before starting a treatment program.

Get Vaccinated

Medications, however, should not replace the flu vaccine, which is still considered the most effective prevention method. According to the CDC, those who should strongly consider getting the shot include people with cardiovascular problems, asthma, or immune deficiencies; children under the age of 5; and people 65 and older. Many doctor's offices, hospitals, county clinics, and schools offer the flu vaccine, either intravenously or through a nasal spray, and Medicare and some insurance companies cover the cost. Be sure to talk to your health-care provider for more information about flu vaccines in your area.