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5 Ways to Avoid the Flu

Millions of Canadians are hit every year with influenza, a common viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs, which passes easily from person to person. The good news? The flu is preventable if you take the right steps.

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Fever, chills, coughing, muscle aches and marked fatigue are some of the symptoms flu sufferers may experience, depending on each person’s immune system. Most people get over it within a week to 10 days, though the flu can lead to more serious complications, such as pneumonia. Follow these tips to steer clear of the flu and stay healthy this season.

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Get the Flu ShotPhoto: Thinkstock

Get the Flu Shot

The easiest way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year, a simple, virtually painless and short procedure. You’ll just have to find an outlet that’s offering flu shots, have a professional administer the vaccine and wait for five minutes to make sure there’s no reaction. It’s really that easy. The flu shot can be found in hospitals, doctors offices, walk-in clinics and drug stores like Shoppers Drug Mart. The shot is widely available starting in October, which tends to be the start of flu season.

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Regular Hand-Washing

Regular Hand-Washing

Since the flu is passed from person to person, hand-washing is an essential step preventing it from spreading. When your hands come in contact with surfaces like doorknobs, handrails and public transit poles, you’re exposing yourself to countless bugs. Make a habit of washing your hands every time you get to your destination, whether it’s the office or home. The proper way to wash your hands involves thoroughly lathering with soap and warm water between the fingers, under the fingernails and around the wrists for a minimum of 10 seconds (or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice). Use paper towel to turn off the tap. “People who are in lots of public places might want to consider carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer with them, if they can’t access a washroom regularly during the day,” advises Dr. David Tannenbaum, Family Physician in Chief at Mt. Sinai hospital in Toronto.

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Keep a Distance

Keep a Distance

If you’re working with someone who sounds sick, keep a distance. Dr. Tannenbaum recommends keeping four to six feet away from co-workers who should be at home. “Droplet transmission is less likely after that kind of distance,” he says. Gently encourage sick co-workers to go home, or if that doesn’t resonate, urge them to cough into their elbow or sleeve and not into their hands.

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Invest in Your Own Utensils and Mugs

Invest in Your Own Utensils and Mugs

Sharing might be caring, but during flu season, it’s best to stick to your own. One of the quickest ways to spread a virus is through mouth-to-mouth contact, so steer clear of sharing things like drinks or cigarettes or kissing people who are sick. Invest in your own mugs and utensils at home and the office, so there’s a smaller chance of cross-contamination.

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Don't Shake Hands During Flu Season

Don’t Shake Hands During Flu Season

An easy way to avoid catching the flu is to reduce direct physical contact with people, particularly those who look like they may be under the weather. Shaking hands is risky business and makes you susceptible to contracting the virus. Dr. Tannenbaum has an easy alternative to handshakes, without making you seem hostile. “Fist bump instead,” he says.