Fighting the flu: What you need to know

This flu season is on track to be one of the worst in decades

DETROIT – This flu season is on track to be one of the worst in decades and people are looking for any advantage they can find to fight the flu.

Due to high flu numbers, children under age 13 will not be allowed to visit patients in any of the eight Beaumont Health hospitals. Exceptions will be made for special circumstances. Family and friends are also asked not to visit if they have any cold or flu symptoms.

READ: This flu season could be worst in decades: Facts and symptoms

In Southeast Michigan, the influenza-like illness number had increased 8.6 percent. That jump means flu is spreading more quickly in the community, according to Dr. Trini Mathew, the Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Beaumont Royal Oak. The most effective way to reduce your risk of getting the flu is to get a flu shot.

Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find the flu vaccine is generally about 30 to 60 percent effective at preventing the flu, depending on the year. There are benefits to getting the flu shot, even if you still catch the flu.

“Influenza vaccine really helps decrease what we call the morbidity, meaning the disease manifestations, and also the risk of mortality, the death that people may have from influenza,” Mathew said.

Another way to reduce your risk of catching the flu is to reduce your exposure. That means avoiding people who are already sick and staying home if you feel ill. Hand washing can make a major difference too. In one study, researchers found that washing your hands regularly -- compared to never -- decreased the odds of developing the flu by roughly 80 percent.

Even more importantly those who washed their hands every time they returned home from being out reduced their risk by 88 percent. Never touching your face also reduced risk by 80 percent. Other proven flu fighting techniques involve boosting your personal immunity.

Getting sufficient sleep is a good place to start. Studies find people who are sleep-deprived produce less than half the influenza antibodies of well-rested people. Reducing stress also helps.

While there isn’t strong evidence that specific foods fight off the flu, eating an overall healthy diet does help boost your immunity. The right amount of exercise can help too. Research finds regular moderate exercise improves immune function and reduces the risk and severity of respiratory viruses. However, prolonged and intense exercise actually lowers your immune system’s ability to fight off infections.

About the Author: