Healthy Choices

Sacramento-area experts share tips for avoiding the flu this season

One recommendation to avoid catching the flu during what is predicted to be a tough season for the virus is to get the flu shot. No, it’s not a perfect match for this season’s mutated strain of influenza A H3N2, but it should provide some protection. Besides, if you get inoculated every year, immunity to various strains of influenza will gradually build up over the years.
One recommendation to avoid catching the flu during what is predicted to be a tough season for the virus is to get the flu shot. No, it’s not a perfect match for this season’s mutated strain of influenza A H3N2, but it should provide some protection. Besides, if you get inoculated every year, immunity to various strains of influenza will gradually build up over the years. Sacramento Bee file

During what’s predicted to be a nasty flu season, Sacramento-area medical experts are advising people to follow some simple steps to avoid catching viruses.

Last week, physicians from regional health organizations – Dr. Ron Chapman, director of California Department of Public Health; Dr. Randy Bergen, Northern California chief infectious disease officer for Kaiser Permanente; and Dr. Stuart Cohen of UC Davis Health Systems – offered practical tips to keep the flu at bay.

Here’s what they recommend:

1. Keep your hands to yourself. Rather than offering a handshake, try a fist bump, as suggested by officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Improvising a greeting with friends – snapping one’s fingers, for example – is another alternative.

2. Spend at least 20 seconds washing your hands with warm water and sudsy soap. To ensure you take the recommended time, sing (or hum in your head if you find singing out loud embarrassing) “Happy Birthday” twice as you wash. Washing hands frequently is healthy, although it’s not necessary to go as far as 40 or 50 times daily, which Dr. Christopher Tolcher, pediatrics professor at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, says he does.

3. Skip the electric hand-dryers, because they often don’t finish the job properly. Instead, use paper towels, which tend to provide more protection by drying hands more thoroughly. Wet hands pick up germs and viruses more readily.

4. Hang onto that paper towel; use it to open the bathroom door to avoid what are called “high-touch surfaces.” You can use this technique in public restrooms or a busy household.

5. If you pass a public hand sanitizer, grab a dab or two – and rub your hands thoroughly until dry, as recommended by manufacturers.

6. Install a portable humidifier beside your bed. Dry air from heaters can dry up your nostrils, making them inviting places for viruses.

7. Get the flu shot. No, it’s not a perfect match for this season’s mutated strain of influenza A H3N2, but it should provide some protection. Besides, if you get inoculated every year, immunity to various strains of influenza will gradually build up over the years.

8. If you like, you can wear a face mask if you are sick to avoid spreading germs or viruses, as is common in Asian cultures.

Call The Bee’s Cynthia H. Craft, (916) 321-1270.

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