5 Smart Habits to Stay Well during Flu Season
Dayle Hayes, MS, RD, Consultant to Mississippi Office of Healthy Schools
The hottest health news these days is all about the H1N1 flu. If you’ve read the headlines, you know the usual tips about the prevention of illness during cold and flu season: Get a flu shot; wash your hands often; cough/sneeze into your sleeve; and stay home if you are sick.
In addition to these timely tips, there are also important nutrition strategies you can use to keep your family as healthy as possible when the flu is all around you. Despite what you may see advertised, there are no miracle foods or vitamins that can help prevent or cure H1N1 (or any other flu).
However, these five basic steps will help keep the flu away today – and help reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes in the future. Now, that’s a win-win solution!
1. Keep your hands clean. This one is worth repeating: Wash your hands properly and frequently. Washing your hands well will help protect you from all germs, including seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus. Use soap and warm water – and wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand wipes or gel sanitizers.
2. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Produce is packed with the nutrients that your immune system needs to fight viruses and bacteria of all types. Go for all types of brightly colored fruits and veggies. They will have more of the disease-fighting antioxidants, such as vitamin C and beta-carotene. Fresh, frozen, dried, and canned in juice – all types of produce all offer health benefits.
3. Drink plenty of fluids. Water is always a refreshing choice. Tea, especially antioxidant-rich green tea, can be a nice way to warm up and stay hydrated anytime. 100% orange or other fruit and vegetable juice is also good, but don’t overdo it: A small glass of juice a day is plenty. Drinking enough fluids (6 to 8 cups a day) will help keep your mucous membranes moist and able to fight off germs.
4. Choose nutrient-rich snacks. During flu season, your body needs every drop of nutrition it can get, so don’t waste your calories on ‘empty’ snacks. Skip the chips, cookies, and colas. Feed your body well with a variety of tasty nutrient-rich items. In addition to fruits and veggies, go for sunflower seeds, nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.), low-fat yogurts, mozzarella cheese sticks, and beef jerky.
5. Consider a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. This is the right time of year for a little extra nutrition insurance, a basic vitamin/mineral pill with 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for most nutrients. Although super-expensive supplements with mega-doses are mostly a waste of your money, you may want to look for a supplement with 1000 IUs of vitamin D. While the DV for vitamin D is currently 400 IUs, many experts are recommending an increase for optimal health and well-being.
Information for Parents on the H1N1 Flu
The Mississippi State Department of Health is working closely with schools to provide guidance and information to prevent the spread of flu among school children.
Parents are encouraged to keep their children home when they are sick with flu-like illness, and children should stay home until they don’t have fever for 24 hours. Children who become ill while at school will be separated from others until parents can be notified and pick them up. Children should be encouraged to wash their hands frequently and cover their coughs and sneezes. The CDC does not currently recommend school closures as an effective way to prevent flu in the schools.
Parents will receive information about how to get their children vaccinated against swine flu as vaccine becomes available. Additionally, all parents are encouraged to have their children vaccinated against regular seasonal flu.
Follow these links for more important information about the H1N1 Swine Flu:
Link to Mississippi Department of Education Swine Flu Information Center
Link to the Mississippi Department of Health H1N1 Webpage
For further information, parents may call the State Department of Health’s hotline at 1-877-222-9FLU (1-877-222-9358).
Source: Mississippi Department of Education