This year’s flu season is one for the books—according to U.S. government health reports, it’s considered the worst virus since 2009’s swine flu epidemic, with the Public Health Agency of Canada reporting over 15,500 cases in Canada to date. Since avoiding the flu can be tricky, especially when crowding into lecture halls with 700 other students or cramming for midterms at libraries frequented by thousands of people per day, The McGill Tribune has compiled several tips for staying safe this winter flu season.
Eat healthy foods
While it may be tempting to survive on nothing but junk food, especially during midterm season, eating well is key to protecting your body from the flu. Vitamins A, C, and E, which act as antioxidants and heighten immune function, can strengthen your body’s natural defense. Carrots and sweet potatoes both contain a lot of vitamin A, so this may be a good time to grab a sweet potato burrito from Burnside’s Soupe Café, or stock up on carrots and hummus for an on-the-go snack. Try to consume more foods with vitamin C such as cantaloupe, kiwi, and mango—and vitamin e—such as spinach, broccoli, and almonds—to boost your immune system. In addition, probiotic yogurt or fermented foods like kimchi or kombucha, boost the “good” bacteria in your gut, which in turn may strengthen your immune system and protect your body against viruses.
Get some rest
This flu season, be sure to relax and get plenty of rest. If you’ve participated in competitive drinking events—such as Carnival or Science Games—you may find yourself feeling under the weather. This is because binge drinking harms the body’s immune system by causing deficiencies in necessary minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, and suppressing the ability of white blood cells to multiply, making you more tired and more prone to sickness. However, with a regular good night’s sleep, your body is better able to combat stress and fatigue, both of which can weaken the immune system and put you at a greater risk of getting the flu. In addition, fatigue can increase the duration of symptoms—which can be debilitating during exam season.
Get the flu shot
Many students skimp out on getting the flu vaccine, but it is a great preventative measure against this year’s nasty virus. Usually, the flu shot is most effective when given in October and November of every year, but it’s never too late to get vaccinated. While the McGill Health Clinic no longer offers vaccinations, it’s still possible to get the shot at other clinics around Montreal, including by appointment at Pharmaprix at 1120 Ste Catherine Ouest.
Wash your hands frequently
One of the most common ways for germs to spread is through our hands. Students come into contact with many people over the course of a single day, which makes transmission extremely likely. As such, it’s important to practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands frequently, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the day. Also, avoid touching your face or eating before washing your hands, as this may transmit the virus into your body.
If you’re sick, stay at home
If you’ve tried all of these tricks and still wind up getting sick, stay home to protect others from the virus. Highly infectious diseases such as the flu can be easily passed from person to person, and everything from having a close face-to-face conversation to sharing a drink could spread the virus. Maybe instead of going to that party Friday night, relax at home and watch some Netflix—it’s in everyone’s best interest.