NATIONAL - In an average year anywhere from five to 20 percent of Americans get the flu, and more than one billion people get colds. But there are things you can do to avoid the sniffle.
Seeing sick people is part of the job for Doctor William Martz. "If you get a cold you're going to have the same symptoms as the flu, just to a lesser degree."
He says just because everyone around you is sick, you don't have to be. "I think the most important thing is, is having our immune system in balance all the time."
One way to do that is with diet. Dr. Martz says, "My recommendations to my patients are to stay well hydrated, drink lots of fluids, to eat a very balanced diet, particularly focusing on fruits and vegetables that have natural immune boosters called antioxidants in them."
To keep the sniffles away, the doctor also suggests:
- Using antiseptic wipes on door knobs.
- Wearing a mask when you're on an airplane.
- Don't exercise if you have fever or muscle aches.
- Use a hand sanitizer.
- Wash your hands often.
Dr. Martz says, "I would say a minimum of 30 seconds up to a minute and most of us really don't do that very well, but that would be the most effective way to wash your hands."
If you use a hand sanitizer, Dr. Martz says you shouldn't touch food right away. It takes a couple minutes to kill the flu bug on your hands, and even longer elsewhere. "The flu virus has been shown to live up to 48 hours on hard surfaces."
Your best shot for avoiding the flu - is exactly that. Dr. Martz says, "If I had to choose one thing, I would tell people to get the flu vaccination."
It's good advice to stay healthy all season long. One more tip for ladies is to carry a leather or vinyl purse. It's easy to wipe off any germs that may be on the bag.
The doctor also says the reviews are mixed when it comes to over-the-counter treatments like echinacea and zinc lozenges, but they can't hurt.