Health Watch -- Keeping Flu Away

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Did you miss your flu shot this year because of vaccine shortages?

After widespread reports of an early and potentially deadly flu season, many parts of the country suffered vaccine shortages or ran out of vaccine all together. If you didn't manage to get your flu shot, does that mean you're doomed to come down with the flu?

Not necessarily, according to doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. There are other ways to protect yourself from the flu virus - and they work.

The best thing to do is wash your hands often, especially if you've been interacting with people or if you've been in high-traffic, public places. Dr. Greg Schneider, a UT Southwestern family practice specialist, recommends taking a break from shopping at the mall to wash your hands with soap and water. Wash again when you come home. Also be sure to wash after you get home from church or from eating out.

Your eyes, nose and mouth are the places where the flu virus enters your body, and your hands quite often are what transfer the virus, so keeping your hands clean and away from your face will help protect you. Drinking liquids, getting adequate rest and exercise, and cutting down on alcohol consumption will keep your immune system stronger to fight the disease. Not smoking also lowers your risk.

Finally, try to relax. Dr. Schneider says stress impairs the immune system, which leaves you more vulnerable to colds and flu.