All About the Flu
It might only be September, but the flu season is here, and the 2019 flu shot is available now! Here's the official scoop and some important FAQs.
What is the flu?
Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, (which mutate frequently, causing past inoculations to be ineffective). Symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.
Who can get the flu?
While anyone can get the flu, the illness is more serious for children under age 5, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes and heart disease. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 8% of the U.S. population gets the flu each year.
Where do I get the flu vaccine?
It's offered at doctors' offices, clinics, health departments, college health centers, pharmacies, and at many offices and some schools. Carnegie will also be sponsoring on-site flu clinics. Stay tuned for details!
What is the best time to get a flu shot?
It takes roughly two weeks to build up immunity after the flu vaccine, so given that flu season just started, it’s ideal to get it now. Even if you think you’ve already had it, there are multiple strains of influenza that circulate in any given season, so don’t wait!
10 Tips to Stay Healthy
Learn how to look after yourself by following these tips:
1. Get an annual flu jab
When expat executive Paul relocated from the UK to Singapore with his family, he wasn’t sure whether he’d need a flu vaccination, or even whether a flu season existed there. In the UK, Paul’s employer had paid for a flu jab because he wasn’t entitled to free one on the National Health Service (NHS). Singapore, with its tropical climate, has flu year-round, and a high number of cases. Paul realized that he and his family would benefit from being vaccinated.
Guidance on flu vaccines varies from country to country, but throughout the world, experts agree that flu vaccinations are not only safe, they are the best way to reduce the likelihood of catching the virus. Singapore follows the WHO vaccination policy, which says that vaccines benefit all. However, young children, pregnant women, health care workers, older adults and people with chronic diseases or weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of complications, so should be immunized as a priority.
We need to be immunized annually because flu viruses evolve, and our immunity wanes over time. The best time to get the vaccine is at the beginning of the flu season, but if you’re not sure when it’s best to be immunized, talk to your doctor or a pharmacist.
2. Practice good personal hygiene
Wash your hands frequently and encourage family members to do the same. Studies show that regular hand washing with soap is one of the most effective ways to reduce the chances of catching cold and flu viruses and passing them on. Seasonal bugs spread when tiny droplets from coughs or sneezes travel in the air and land on surfaces, where they can survive for up to 24 hours if they are not washed away. If you don’t have access to soap, then hand sanitizer gel will do.
In some Asian countries, particularly in Japan and China, people wear face masks to prevent the spread of flu. Paul wasn’t sure if his employer would suggest he do the same, but they are less common in Singapore. Deciding whether to wear a face mask is probably a matter of personal choice, with some guidelines recommending them. If you wear one, change it a couple of times a day, more often if it gets wet.
As well as practicing good hygiene and getting vaccinated, we can give our bodies the best chance of defending themselves against viruses with a healthy immune system. For our immune systems to work well, we should:
3. Get enough sleep
4. Eat a variety of foods
Eating 5-7 portions of fruits and vegetables daily is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy. Fruit and veg contain valuable vitamins and minerals, so including plenty of them in your meals prevents deficiency and keeps our immune systems working well. Eating well isn’t a sure-fire way to stop yourself from getting the flu, but it will help to keep us you good health. Fruit and veg are also high in fibre, and a recent animal study found that a high-fibre diet could help protect against the flu.
5. Exercise regularly
Although it sounds easy, most of us don’t get enough exercise. It helps to remember that building extra activity into your day is enough. If like Paul, you sit at a desk all day, take regular breaks and move around every half hour or so. Brisk walking is great exercise: aim for 20-30 minutes a day during your lunch break. If you’d like to do more formal exercise, choose something you enjoy and stick with it for a few weeks until it becomes a habit.
6. Manage stress
Relocating to a different country, being far from friends and support networks can play havoc with your stress levels. Being aware of the signs of stress is a first step, the next is taking steps to manage it. Remember that not all stress is bad. We need some in our lives to be productive, but too much can make us exhausted and ill. If you think your stress levels need addressing, talk to someone. This could be a family member, your doctor or a counsellor. If work is the problem, talk to your line manager and don’t suffer in silence. Read our tips for ways to ease your stress levels.
7. Watch your alcohol intake
Tempting as it is to wind-down with a few drinks after work, try not to make it a daily habit. When you drink alcohol, keep an eye on your units. Not only does too much alcohol weaken our immune systems and make us more vulnerable to infections, it disrupts sleep and affects our productivity the following day.
8. Look after yourself
If you’re unlucky enough to come down with the flu, you’ll need to rest until you feel better. If you’ve just got a light cold, you may be well enough to work. But if you have a fever, go home and rest. It’s worth thinking about your impact on others. Do you really want to share your germs with your co-workers? While resting at home, sneeze or cough into a clean tissue and dispose of it in a bin. Don’t share towels with family members to avoid infecting them.
9. Treat your symptoms
If you have aches, a fever or chills, take paracetamol to lower your temperature and feel better. Follow the directions on the packet and don’t take more than four doses in 24 hours. Rest and fluids will ease your symptoms and let your body heal itself. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and if you feel tired, rest or nap.
10. See a doctor
Flu is managed differently from country to country. In some, it’s commonplace to see a doctor. In others, a doctor will tell you to manage your symptoms at home. One thing’s certain – if you or anyone in your family comes down with the flu and is in an at-risk group for complications, make sure you get medical advice early on.
Your doctor may recommend antivirals to fight the flu, which should be taken within 48 hours from the onset of symptoms. Most people recover well, but complications can happen. If your symptoms get worse, or last a week without improving, see a doctor as soon as you can.
Talk to HR today (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions about our sick leave policies or our health and wellness plan benefits.
For more information and a pdf copy of the 10 Tips to Stay Healthy, please see below.