Archive for Thursday, May 14, 2009

Healthy practices can assist in defense against swine flu

May 14, 2009

The hot, current news item is the flu. In this case, it is influenza H1N1, or more commonly known as “swine flu.” H1N1 is one of several types of influenza (flu) virus that causes respiratory disease that can spread between people.

Most people infected with this virus in the United States have had mild cases, but some have been severely ill, and there have been at least three deaths.

The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  

There are some simple, precautionary steps that we can take to protect our health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer the following hints for optimizing health:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too. If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent the spread of illness to others.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Wash your hands thoroughly after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth. Use warm water and soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer can be used as an extra line of defense but should be used with care with young children.

• Practice other good health habits including:

— Eat nutritious foods – whole grains and fruits and vegetables in particular are rich in phytonutrients that are beneficial to a healthy immune system, which improves your ability to fight disease. And for the record, you cannot get this flu from eating pork!

— Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Using your body weight as a guide, divide your weight by 2 and drink that many ounces of water. Example: if you weigh 150 pounds, strive for 75 ounces of water daily. Yes, that sounds like a lot of water, but many people go through each day in a state of near dehydration. And yes, you will make more trips to the bathroom as your body adjusts to the new level of hydration.

— Get plenty of sleep – eight hours per night for optimum health. Inadequate sleep stresses the immune system.

— Get daily physical activity – 30 minutes per day is a good goal. This not only improves cardiovascular, lymphatic and joint function, but is also good for stress management.

— Manage your stress – stress hormones work in conflict with a healthy immune system. Quiet time, prayer, meditation or relaxing hobbies contribute greatly to overall health.

More information on influenza is available online at pandemicflu.gov.

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