Expert tips on staying flu-free

How to stay healthy this season, plus 4 ways to get your kids to wash up.

By Dee Van Dyk

How to avoid the flu

"The flu season is long, just like a Canadian winter," says Dr. Vincent Lam, who co-authored the book The Flu Pandemic and You with Dr. Colin Lee. "The flu season can last from October to April," he adds. "We are most at risk around the peak of the season, which usually happens in January."

We expect an annual bout of the flu, but is a flu pandemic imminent?

"I think the predictions are difficult," cautions Dr. Lee. "The people who are predicting that we are overdue for one are basing it on the fact that if you look at the 20th century, there were three influenza pandemics (1918, 1957 and 1968). He continues, "if we take the average length of time between pandemics in the 20th century we are overdue for one. However, that is really the only criteria that people are using. What we're saying is that a pandemic is highly unpredictable."

But the flu, even if it's just the usual annual outbreak, is something everyone wants to avoid. Below, find some tips to keep yourself as safe as possible from this year's flu outbreak.

4 flu-busting tips
1. If you're sick, stay home
"There's a growing trend of presenteeism in our society," says family physician Dr. Iris Greenwald. "People feel the need to go to work despite being sick, and sometimes send their children to school when they're ill. Staying home is very important to prevent this cycle of illness."

According to a recent poll, 80 per cent of Canadians admitted to going to work when they were sick. When a flu ripples through the office, it ends up affecting productivity as a whole.

2. Stay healthy
A healthy lifestyle can go a long way to protecting you against the flu. Drink lots of water, eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep and enough exercise to increase your body's chances of fighting off the flu.

3. Don't spread the germs
When you sneeze or cough, either cover your mouth with a tissue and then throw the tissue away, or sneeze or cough into the crease of your elbow. Sneezing or coughing directly into your hand may leave behind germs that are then easily transmissible.

4. Wash your hands
"The number one way to decrease transmission is really good hand hygiene," says Dr. Greenwald. "If you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your face, that's basically how the bacteria and viruses get into your system." On average, people touch their face about six times an hour, so it's important to wash your hands thoroughly and often.


Page 1 of 2 – The experts dish on how to get your kids to wash their hands properly on page 2.

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