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Kick the Flu's Butt, Before It Kicks Yours

01/05/2015 05:27 EST | Updated 01/07/2016 11:59 EST
Shutterstock / Kamira

Welcome to 2015 -- it's a new year! We all want the year ahead to be the best yet, but that's hard to do if you're feeling under the weather.

One of the biggest health culprits during the new year is the flu. With all of the talk about flu shots in the fall, most people don't realize that there is a spike in flu activity in January and flu season goes all the way to April. Even though we're well into flu season, it's still important that Canadians make sure they get the flu shot as it is the single best defense against the flu.

According to Health Canada, each year anywhere from 3.4- to 8.6-million Canadians will come down with the flu, which can have very serious consequences. In fact, between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die from the flu annually, depending on the severity of the season.

However, if you do end up getting sick, here are a few tips and tricks that can help you get back on your feet faster:

Water is Your Best Friend: There are multiple ways H2o can help when you are feeling sick. To start with, you can use it to gargle. Gargling with 250 mL of warm water mixed with salt does wonders to fight off bacteria. In addition, simply drinking lots of water helps to thin-out mucus so that it is easier to get rid of. Water can be also used in a humidifier to keep the air moist, which helps mucus stay loose. And don't forget the power of steam for decongestion! Pour boiled water into a large bowl and drape a towel over the top of your head to trap the steam. Breathe in through your nose for five to 10 minutes to aid decongestion.

Watch What You Eat: Research shows that brightly colored vegetables and fruits can boost your immunity. Eating at least eight servings a day helps keep the immune system in top form, and prevents it from overreacting, which is the cause of many immune-related diseases. In addition, when sick, avoid dairy as it creates excess mucus in the body. And you can't forget good ol' chicken soup! The cysteine in chicken soup, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking, is chemically similar to a common bronchitis drug. Chicken soup thins mucus and eases the symptoms of a stuffed-up nose and wracking cough.

Keep the Medicine Cabinet Stocked: There are five things everyone should have in their medicine cabinet to get them ready for cold and flu season and minimize the impact if they do get sick.

  • Pain relievers: Helps with aches and pains caused by the flu
  • Decongestants: Clears nasal passages so you can breathe more comfortably
  • Throat lozenges: Helps soothe a sore throat
  • Cough suppressant: Relieves dry cough or congested cough symptoms
  • Cool-mist vaporizer: Provides moisture to the air, helping to ease coughing and congestion

Wash Your Hands: Make sure to wash your hands for 20 seconds using soap and warm water (long enough to sing a full "happy birthday" song). Make sure to do this several times a day to keep germs at bay.

Don't (always) be a hero: Stay in bed if your body is exhausted. If you don't get the rest you need, it will be that much harder for you to fight the virus. Also, make sure to change your pillow cases often, especially when you or anyone who shares your bed feels sick.

Break a Sweat: Stay active during flu season. Skipping the gym may increase your risk of catching a cold.

It is important to see a physician or local pharmacist if you exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever above 101.5
  • Shaking chills
  • Bloody mucus of phlegm
  • Chest pain when you breathe or talk
  • Inability to keep down food or liquids

Remember -- it's still not too late to get a flu shot. Shopper's Drug Mart pharmacies offer flu immunizations administered by an injection-certified pharmacist. Just walk in, no need for an appointment! Start your year off right and kick the flu's butt, before it kicks yours.

Wishing all Canadians a healthy and happy new year!

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