Advice to keep healthy this cold and flu season

(ARA) – The beginning of fall marks the start of aches and pains from seasonal influenza and the common cold for many Americans. Each year between 5 and 20 percent of Americans will get the flu, and colds send patients to the doctor’s office more than 100 million times a year for treatment.

There are a number of ways to prepare for cold and flu season. One way is to get the annual flu vaccination, now offered through Nov. 15 in-club at Sam’s Club locations nationwide for ages 4 and up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people 6 months and older receive a flu vaccination, especially those who are at high risk of developing complications once contracting the flu. Examples of people at high risk include:

* Pregnant women

* People 65 years of age and older

* American Indians and Alaskan Natives, who were at higher risk of flu complications last flu season

* People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions

Getting the flu shot before flu season is in full force gives the body a chance to build up immunity to the virus. Peak months for the flu are December through February, so get your flu shot early and stock-up on preventative over-the-counter cough, cold and flu medicines, hand sanitizers and disinfectants for high-contact areas of the home and office, like phones and door knobs.

There are several simple steps you can take to avoid catching the flu or common cold, says Dr. Andrew Myers, an expert in nutrition and preventative health.  These include:

* Wash your hands as often as is practical. Colds are most commonly spread with objects or hands contaminated by the nasal secretions of someone who is infected.

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Most of us touch our faces as many as one to three times every five minutes – nearly 200 to 600 times each day. While it can be a hard habit to break, it can prevent the direct spread of the cold from your hands to the susceptible areas of your face.

* Eat healthy, high-energy foods. Your body always needs fuel, but when you’re sick, a lot of your body’s energy is devoted to your immune system. Focusing on fruits, vegetables and whole grains will keep you fueled with antioxidant nutrition.

* Take a good multivitamin. A daily multivitamin provides important nutrients for healthy immune function like zinc, selenium and beta-carotene/vitamin A. Choose a multivitamin that matches your age and gender-specific needs.

* Get enough sleep and rest. Researchers have found that the people who had slept less than seven hours a night in the weeks before being exposed to the cold virus were about three times more likely to develop a full-fledged cold than those who had slept more.

* Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can impact immune system function, so be sure to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.

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