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A Flu Pandemic Is Bearing Your Way, Should You Sneeze Like Dracula?

December 10, 2018 By Dr. William S. Gruss, M.D.

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Brace yourself. The world will have a flu pandemic.

Probably not this year. We can still hope this season, which won't peak until January or February, will be kinder than last year.

But a pandemic is coming. Syra Madad, who heads the Special Pathogens Program at NYC Health + Hospitals told the Wall Street Journal “It is not a matter of if it will happen, it is a matter of when it will happen.”

If you have already had your flu shot, smart move.

That may not prevent flu germs from finding you, but it does reduce your chances of succumbing. Flu shots slash the likelihood of getting the bug by 40% to 70%. It varies by year, depending on which flu strains are flying around. Last year was a nasty one, the vaccine only reduced the odds by 40%.

There's another factor to consider, though. Flu shots also have a well-established record of keeping sick patients from getting deathly ill. Repeat that thought. Even if you get the flu, you are likely to be less sick and recover sooner if you had a flu shot.

Last year's flu shot cut the risk of being hospitalized with flu by 71% overall. For people over age 50, it was even better—cutting their hospitalization risk by 77%.

Apart from that, there are some interesting ideas on how to evade a flu attack.

Clorox, of course, recommends lots of bleach. Most of us prefer to swab our hands with a gentle dab of  Purell, however. Ladies are advised to put away cloth purses and opt for materials that can be wiped down after an outing in the germ-ridden public. And everyone who bites his or her nails—quit it!

Oatmeal brings beta glucan, zinc, and selenium to the task, according to some sources. They all serve to support healthy immune systems.

Sneezing into your elbow instead of your hand, however, won't do much to help you. It's a kindness to others because you don't touch everything from door handles to credit card swipe machines with your elbows. You touch them with your germy hands... and get whatever germs the people before you left behind.

Even that is questionable comfort, though. ABC News tested coughing styles and found that the “Dracula move” coughing into your elbow still sent sneeze particles 8.5 feet away. Coughing into hands only sent particles 3.5 feet afield. The best technique by far was coughing into a paper tissue (Kleenex to most of us). Nothing spread through the air.

Then wash your hands and throw the tissue away, of course.

Speaking of Dracula, garlic is supposed to ward off flu as well as vampires.

The best course of action, though, is to maintain the best health you can every day. Drink plenty of water, always. Eat well. Take the right vitamins and supplements. Exercise. Laugh. Hang out with friends. All these positive habits are immune-system friendly.

And when it's flu season, a strong immune system is good to have.

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