Autumn is on its way, bringing with it a host of viruses. Among them, the notorious seasonal flu. While most people recover from this illness within a few days, others can suffer serious complications. What can you do to reduce the risk of catching flu? Here are our five tips.
Do you have a fever, a headache, a cough, a runny nose or aching muscles? Welcome to the flu, the acute infectious disease caused by the influenza virus. While seasonal flu is generally well tolerated by many of us, it can lead to common complications such as sinusitis, ear infection and bronchitis. In rarer cases, it can cause more serious illnesses such as pneumonia, myocarditis or neurological disorders. In Switzerland, every year, between 112,000 and 275,000 medical consultations and between 1,000 and 5,000 hospital admissions are due to influenza.
Influenza is contagious, transmitted by droplets from the mouth and nasal secretions when you cough, sneeze or talk. Contamination occurs when the germ comes into contact with mucous membranes, i.e. the inside of the mouth, nose and eyes. The virus also survives on objects such as door handles, railings and lift buttons. All the more reason to put the following advice into practice.
1. Practise good hand hygiene
We hear it all the time, but washing your hands is most certainly the first thing you should do on a daily basis to keep viruses at bay. Good hand hygiene is a good way of reducing the risk of catching the flu. Wash your hands regularly under running water, with soap, for about 20 to 30 seconds, not forgetting your fingernails. To ensure maximum hygiene, remember to sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands.
2. Remember to get vaccinated
Vaccination remains the most effective way of combating influenza. Studies show that the vaccine provides between 20% and 80% protection against the disease. Although it is less effective for people in “at-risk” groups, the vaccine can nevertheless reduce the effects and complications of the virus and limit its transmission. Vaccination is primarily recommended for people in risk groups linked to age or illness: people over 65, pregnant women and people suffering from chronic illnesses are the first to benefit. Vaccination, which should be repeated every year for it to be effective, is also recommended for anyone working with vulnerable groups, i.e. healthcare professionals, childminders and people in care homes.
These days, everything is done to make it easier for people to get vaccinated. Is it difficult to make an appointment with your doctor? There are other ways of getting vaccinated. Groupe Mutuel works with a number of pharmacies that offer the flu vaccine. These include:
In these pharmacies, trained professionals can administer the vaccine quickly and easily. Making an appointment is also easy and can be done directly online. All you have to do is choose the place and time at which you would like to receive your vaccine.
3. Avoid enclosed and overcrowded places
As we all know, winter is a good time for the flu virus, because the air is dry and cold. And, of course, when the weather is bleak, people tend to gather in enclosed public places. These same places are also favorite playgrounds for viruses. Avoid them wherever possible, preferring more open and less crowded spaces.
4. When symptoms appear, stay at home
Missing a few days of work is never pleasant, but the logic is undeniable: if I stay at home, I can't infect anyone. A sick person remains contagious for between three and five days. Children, on the other hand, can be contagious for between 10 days and sometimes three weeks. Just like vaccination, staying at home in the event of symptoms is both a form of personal protection and an act of solidarity. What's more, it allows you to recover in the best possible conditions, with peace and quiet and plenty of rest.
5. Don't forget to boost your immune system
Strengthening your immune system starts with a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet, regular exercise and a good night's sleep are the main drivers for a happy, high-performing body that can fight viruses more effectively. We also know that disruptive factors such as stress can weaken the immune system. When the body’s immune system is less resistant, it’s easier for viruses to join the party. Take some time out for yourself, either by getting some fresh air or by taking part in an activity of your choice, whether sports-related or recreational. Allow yourself a break when you're feeling overwhelmed by work and get rid of tasks that aren't essential. Your body and mind will thank you for it.