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18 'Hacks' That Help People With Chronic Illness Avoid Catching the Flu

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Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

Flu season can be a scary time of year for even the healthiest of people. This year has been especially bad, as the flu outbreak is on track to be the worst one in nearly a decade. While the flu can have devastating consequences for anyone, many of those with chronic illness are at a higher risk because their bodies don’t function as well as healthy people’s. Some people may take medication that suppresses their immune system, while others may have an illness that interferes with the body’s ability to fight off infections. Either way, it becomes critical for those with chronic illness to do whatever they can to avoid catching the flu, and for those who have the flu to avoid going out in public and putting others at risk of contracting it.

While lowering the risk of transmission involves the responsibility of both those with the flu and those without to take preventative measures, we wanted to know what precautions those with chronic illness take to try to avoid catching the flu. So we asked our Mighty community to share their “hacks” for lowering their risk of getting sick. There might not be a surefire, 100 percent effective way to avoid the flu (apart from completely avoiding people for the duration of the flu season), but some of these strategies may help.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. “I get my flu shot and then avoid people. Seriously. Not just crowds but people in general. And if I have to go somewhere, like the grocery store, I wash my hands as soon as I get home and maybe wear a scarf over my face while I’m out.” – Ashley F.

2. “In all honesty my immune system sucks. I also am not allowed to get the flu shot. But I try my best not to get sick throughout the year. I use my own pens, pencils, etc. I carry hand sanitizer.” – Shelby A. S.

3. “Washing hands. Keeping my family healthy, annual flu shot is a must, and I am absolutely not shy about telling people to stay away when sick or unvaccinated.” – Josie V.

4. “I have my kids take a shower as soon as they get home from school, before they can give me hugs or even touch much of anything. School germs have no place in my immunocompromised life!” – Lessa B.

5. “I’m on immunosuppressants and refuse to shake hands during flu season. I ‘extend the right elbow of friendship’ instead and folks laugh when we bump elbows.” – Debby R. B.

6. “I have hand sanitizers literally everywhere – coat pocket, purse, desk drawer, hanging from my backpack that I take to work… everywhere! I also take Emergen-C and if sick people touch my desk, I go behind them with cleaning products.” – Sara W.

7. “I’m a teacher, so I’m around germs all the time. My immune system is horrid, so I have to take every precaution there is to try and not get sick. It doesn’t always work. I’m very big into essential oils. I use Young Living, and I diffuse oils in my home, and I also put them on me. Anything to help boost my immune system, and help me to stay well during this nasty flu season.” – Brittney S.

8. “With fibromyalgia and arthritis you are always prone to catching a cold. So I wear a lot of layers, I have a lot of scarves and avoid going out at night or when it’s raining.” – Mariana S. C.

9. “Wear a scarf in public so I can breathe through it if necessary. Hand sanitizer. Hold my breath passing people, especially kids. And wipe handles of shopping carts to clean them. I stay home a lot this time of year, too. Being on immunosuppressants is risky.” – Joan W. A.

10. “I avoid people as much as I can during flu season, and I work full-time. Maybe it comes across as antisocial at times but I don’t care. Also, any family gathering I make sure to ask a few days in advance if anyone is sick so I opt out if the answer is yes. I know most are contagious before they have symptoms but in my brain it makes me feel like I am doing my best.” – Bethany T.

11. “I used to get sick all the time. The one small change I made that resulted in drastically fewer viruses is not touching the handles on public bathrooms on my way out. People improperly wash their hands (or, gross, not at all) and/or they touch the handle with wet hands, making it significantly easier for the virus to live and spread. I only open the door with a paper towel barrier. If I have no choice but to touch it, I use a pinky finger or something and dig out the hand sanitizer.” – Kristy G.

12. “I stay hydrated, eat a ton of vegetables and if I feel anything coming on I sleep as much as humanly possible. And of course my flu shot every year.” – Jessica S.

13. “Can’t stress washing the hands enough. We wipe down cabinets, faucets, door knobs, etc. with Lysol wipes. We use hand sanitizer but not overdoing it. As far as myself, I take my vitamins, an Airborne chewable every day, we keep the house stocked with halo clementines and if I go to the doctor or shopping I keep my mouth and nose covered and change my clothes as soon as I get home! Usually into jammies after I wash my face, hands and, if a short sleeve, my arms. I also drink vitamin water to up my fluids.” – Darlene R.

14. “My husband and I both wear masks when we’re out. Then our hands get sanitizer immediately after we’re seated in the car. We shop early in the morning, when hardly anyone is out.” – Roberta M. D.

15. “I carry Norwex microfiber cloths with me everywhere and make sure to always wipe down carts when shopping. Keeping your hands clean is 100 percent the most important way to avoid other people’s germs when you have to leave the house.” – Janine T.

16. “Live by the 24-hour rule: the virus can survive 24 hours outside the body so anything that comes into my home mail, shopping, etc. and anything that has touched the outside world including my clothing I quarantine for 24 hours. I also muzzle up and never touch my face until washing my hands.” – Jo J.

17. “Face masks! I worked in a daycare and can’t get the flu shot because of the preservative they use… face masks and washing hands saved me from hand germs.” – Allie H. (Check out our community’s recommendations for face masks here.)

18. “My wife is a teacher so the germs come home from school with her no matter what. I just get my flu shot, wash my hands as much as possible and pray.” – Jim T.

Originally published: February 1, 2018
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