Simple Practices Can Ward Off Flu

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Experts Say Clean Common Areas, Avoid Crowds

Most of us won't be getting a flu shot this year, but there are ways to avoid getting sick. First, doctors recommend using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, reported WCVB-TV in Boston. "I've never been addicted to alcohol before in my life, but now I am. I'm using alcohol on my hands all the time," said Dr. Mark Drapkin, of Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Mass. Experts say 80 percent of germs are spread by the hands, and just a dime-sized amount of the sanitizers has been proven to kill the most common ones. Keep a bottle of sanitizer handy in your briefcase or desk drawer, and use it at least twice a day.

Next, experts say, pop some vitamin E. A study by Tufts University researchers showed a 20 percent decrease in upper-respiratory infections like the flu in the elderly who used 200 mg of vitamin E each day. "It improves the ability of our immune cells to function and to fight against pathogens," said Dr. Simin Meydani, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrition Center and Tufts University. Next on the experts' list is to wipe down shared surfaces like computers and phones. Despite some debate over the effectiveness of disinfectant wipes in attacking viruses, experts agree that the wipes will kill at least some of germs that can make you sick — especially in the workplace.

And finally, experts say, do at least some holiday shopping online. While you may have to go to the mall to visit Santa or see items firsthand, avoiding big crowds is key to stopping the spread of the flu, which is highly contagious. "You might consider wearing a mask, limiting the amount of time that you spend milling about, get your business done and then go home," said Dr. Stephen Zinner, of Mount Auburn Hospital, in Cambridge, Mass. Something else that may protect you is having had the flu last year. That flu strain is similar to the one that is showing itself so far this season, and doctors say antibodies could still be in your system to ward off infection. © 2004, Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc.

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