Christine Patrick, Clemson Extension EFNEP Agent
With the flu bearing down on South Carolina, we are all looking for ways to avoid this miserable illness. Flu shots, washing hands, downing vitamins, drinking lots of water, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep are all ways to help build up your body’s immune system, especially during this time of year. If you are one of the many people who find it difficult to find time to drink eight (8-fluid-ounce) cups of water and get eight hours of sleep. Don’t fret. A healthy diet may prove to be your body’s biggest and best protection against unwanted pathogens. As is always the case with healthy eating, balance, moderation, and variety reign supreme; however, some foods have exceeded healthful expectations, being deemed immune-boosting foods. While these foods may or may not help to prevent colds and flu, they may give you a leg up on fending off pesky germs.
Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It is not commonly regarded as a foodborne illness; however, eating food prepared by someone with the flu may allow for the spread from one person to another.
- Food handlers may transmit viruses to food if they do not wash their hands properly.
- Viruses may exist in foods but do not grow and cause food spoilage. They only grow once they enter a suitable host and then may cause illness by infection.
- Influenza viruses can be destroyed by heat (167°F – 212°F).
Most experts agree that the flu is most commonly spread when people (who are infected with the flu virus) talk, cough, or sneeze spreading droplets of water into the air and into the mouths or noses of people nearby. The flu virus may also be contracted when touching a surface or object contaminated with the flu virus and then touching their mouth, eyes, or nose.
There are several things you can do to help you avoid getting the flu.
- Consider getting the flu vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers detailed information on the flu vaccine so that you can decide whether getting vaccinated is right for you visit the website. Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Keep your environment clean and disinfected. Avoid touching your face. Wash your hands often with soap and clean, warm, running water. Effective handwashing requires rubbing hands together for 20 seconds. Encourage family members to wash their hands often.
Common symptoms of seasonal influenza are fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people, especially children, may also have vomiting and diarrhea. Most people will experience mild symptoms and will not require medical care. However, if you feel that you are very sick or are worried you may see a doctor for a flu screening. If you test positive for the flu virus your doctor can prescribe an antiviral drug that may lighten your symptoms and shorten the length of illness. All people with flu symptoms should avoid spreading the flu by limiting contact with other people. For more detailed information on the flu, visit the CDC.
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