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how do you prevent the flu?

I’m not a person who tends to panic when watching the news, but OH MY GOD HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT THIS FLU SEASON?  I mean, it’s insane:  at the time of my writing this, 40 states are reporting a widespread outbreak of the flu, and — this does not give me a whole lot of comfort — the flu vaccine is said to be only about 62% effective.  Couple this with the fact that two of my best friends were in the emergency room with the flu during the past couple of weeks, I’ve whipped myself up into a serious paranoia.

To make things worse, I have some air travel coming up in a few days, and in my hyper-worried state, I can’t help but view my plane as a petri dish with wings — so in preparation for my trip, I’ve been working really hard at doing every that I can, following every rule, wives’ tale and folklore I can possibly find to keep myself as healthy as possible.  Aside from the flu vaccine, my latest practices include:

1.  Getting 8 hours of sleepResearch shows that getting enough sleep might be one of the best ways to avoid getting sick — and frankly, any time someone suggests that I should be getting more sleep, I take that to heart.  So these days, I’m making sure to go to bed early enough that I get eight hours of sleep.  This is, actually, much harder than you think it would be, but I’m trying.

2.  Washing my hands obsessively.  Any time I think about it, I wash my hands.  If I’m not somewhere where there’s soap and water readily available, I have lavender-scented  sanitizer that I’m constantly spraying on my hands.  I may still get the flu, but my hands are the cleanest in town, and I smell like a spa.

3.  Staying home a lot.  I work from home, which helps, but these days, my family and I are also trying not to go out if we can help it, staying home as much as possible.  Maybe this seems paranoid, but it also means tons of home-cooked meals and movie nights, which in my book is sort of an awesome thing.

4.  Drinking lots of tea, taking extra vitamin C, drinking immunity-boosting drinks.  These sorts of preventatives are probably sketchy at best, but I figure it can’t hurt.  I’m a tea-drinker by nature, and tea is my comfort drink, so having an extra cup or two during the day improves my mood anyway.  There’s apparently little proof that Vitamin C can prevent the cold or flu, but I figure a few extra oranges a week can’t hurt.  Besides, my mother swore by Vitamin C, and listening to my mom is a habit that’s hard to break.

Now clearly, I’m no doctor (and those of you who are doctors out there might be cringing reading this), so really, other than the sleep-washing-hands-thing, everything I say here should be taken with a grain of salt.  (I also admit that some of my practices might make no sense whatsoever.)  So, here’s where I ask your advice — what about you?  Do you have any tried-and-true ways of keeping healthy during cold and flu season?  Are you a religious flu-vaccine-taker?  Did your mom have any flu advice? Any old wives’ tales or superstitions?

What else are you doing to protect yourself this year?

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