If you think that you are physically at the top of the world just because you have a flawless face and you hit the yoga class twice a week with your girlfriends, think again. In fact, you are still vulnerable. All it takes is the invasion of a few miserable little viruses into your system and before you know it, you could be huddled in bed, shivering and sweating, aching all over with a hacking cough and an overflowing nose, with a general feeling like you have just gotten run over. When that happens, you know that you have just been flattened out by the flu.
How You Catch It
Sitting in the draft will not give you the flu, nor will getting cold or wet, although these things may lower your resistance to infection. Regular exercise, good nutrition and a few supplements at the right time can help strengthen your immune system. The other trick is to stay away from people who are infected. Someone with an infection is most contagious from one to four days before they show any visible symptoms.
The virus is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets. If someone who is infected is standing near you coughing, sneezing or even just talking to you, they are essentially creating these little respiratory droplets. If you happen to inhale those, chances are you are likely to become infected.
Additionally, the flu virus can be transmitted in another way — do-it-yourself infection. For instance, say you head over to the gym for your regular session of bis and tris. You grab the barbell, shuffle the weights around here and there or switch dumbbells in between your sets. Or maybe you take a sip from the water cooler and proceed to wipe your mouth with your bare hands. Guess what? Your hands might have just given you the flu and you may end up a quivering wreck within the next 24 hours.
This is because flu is contagious, and as such, everything from the equipment to the front door gym may carry the flu virus if someone else infected by the virus came into contact with it prior. So, when you touch your eyes, mouth or nose (these are the most vulnerable points for infections), you efficiently transfer the viruses into your system. Public surfaces, including phones, ATM machines, handrails and even paper money are usually infected.
How Not to Catch It
According to the Centre for Disease Control, the best single preventive measure is to get an influenza vaccination every year. Flu shots are 70% to 90% effective. They cannot cause the flu and the only side effect that you are likely to get is the slight muscle soreness. Here is a pro tip: Consciously relax the muscle where the shot is administered. Tensing it when you feel the needle cause more soreness. If you wind up catching the flu virus even after the vaccination, it will likely be less severe and of shorter duration than it would have been without the shot. Doctors say that most people who claim they caught the flu despite getting the flu shot probably had no more than a bad cold. Only those with an allergy to eggs (vaccines contain traces of egg protein) or with other medical problems, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, should avoid the flu vaccination.
The next best preventive measure is fairly simple: Wash your hands and face every chance you get. Cold water is perfectly alright, but you must use some form of hand soap and rub your hands together for at least 15 seconds. Between washings, keep your fingers out of your eyes, nose and mouth, and remember to chug down lots of fluids.
A 2005 study of endurance athletes published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that heavy exertion increased the risk of upper respiratory tract infection for a two-week period following race events. This appears to have been caused by a depressed immune system function. Health experts and professionals have also noticed a rebound effect after bodybuilders’ pre-contest dieting is over. When they start to eat again, they often come down with the flu. A similar pattern is observed with triathletes.
Supplements like vitamin C may reduce the severity or duration of cold and flu symptoms. It stimulates white blood cells, including virus-chomping macrophages and interferon, which fights viruses. Additionally, glutamine can also be consumed in significant quantities for the immune system. This amino acid is produced naturally by the body but when an infection or diseases stresses the body, the result can be glutamine deficiency. This, in turn, can lead to a significant loss of strength and muscle mass. Lastly, vitamin A plays a crucial role in protecting mucous membranes and is essential for the production of saliva, sweat and tears. The mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth are where infections enter your system, so keeping them moist and healthy is extremely important.