What Can You Do to Prevent a Sore Throat and the Flu?

November 30, 2023
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Millions of people get what most call the flu each year. Influenza, or the flu, is a seasonal illness that starts towards the end of the year and lasts until around February or March of the following year.

In the 2021-2022 flu season, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 9 million people contracted the flu. Of those, 4 million required medical attention, 100,000 ended up in the hospital, and 5,000 died.

The people most susceptible to the flu are children and older adults. Everyone is a potential victim, though. Some common flu symptoms include fever, cough, and, of course, a sore throat. There are things you can do to help protect yourself and your family from getting a sore throat and the flu. Consider some flu prevention tips to help you get through this season.

What Is the Flu? 

The flu is a viral infection of the respiratory tract, focusing primarily on the upper section that includes:

There are several strains of influenza, the virus responsible for the flu. Infection with any of them can produce symptoms and possibly lead to complications such as:

Flu Symptoms

According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the benchmark signs of the flu is a sore throat, but that is not the only symptom to watch for. Others include:

Although a sore throat may result from an influenza infection, that’s not the only possibility. A sore throat could also be a symptom of:

If you only have a sore throat, you should see your doctor to rule out a strep infection, which is highly contagious.

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How to Avoid a Sore Throat

Prevention is the first line of defense against infections like the flu or step. That starts with some basic hand hygiene. Many respiratory infections spread via droplets when someone coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets settle on surfaces, clothing, and skin.

If you get them on your hands, you spread them around. The virus can infect you if you rub your eyes or touch your nose or mouth, something many do without realizing.

Washing your hands helps protect you from flu on surfaces or your body. It helps keep you and the people around you safe.

It is important to take some basic steps not to get the flu and also protect yourself from a sore throat. That is one reason healthcare professionals encourage you to get a flu vaccination.

What Is a Flu Vaccination?

Preventative health care, such as a flu shot or vaccination, is one of the best ways to keep yourself from getting seriously sick with the flu. A vaccination triggers the production of antibodies. Antibodies are like small flags the body creates to help it recognize an infectious agent like a virus.

If a virus you’ve had before enters your body, the antibodies tag it. That helps the immune system see it as a danger and eliminate it.

One of the major challenges with viruses is that they mutate often. This is why getting a new flu shot every season is necessary. The flu vaccine manufacturers use the most recent variants of influenza when creating the vaccine. When you get the shot, your body will develop antibodies for the current threat.

The CDC recommends that everyone over six get a yearly flu shot. The rare exception to this rule is if you’ve had a bad reaction to a previous flu vaccine. Getting your flu shot is the best way to prevent a severe influenza infection and potentially deadly complications.

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Other Ways to Avoid the Flu and a Sore Throat

Along with washing your hands regularly and getting a flu shot, there are other things you can do to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

Disinfect Surfaces

Get in the habit of regularly wiping down surfaces with a disinfectant. This could be at home, work, or school. Don’t forget the little things when cleaning like door knobs, toilet handles and light switches too.

Give Your Immune System a Boost

Even if you do all the right things, you will likely get sick if your immune system lags. That means you need to take care of yourself. Follow your doctor’s instructions for preventative healthcare if you have a chronic illness like asthma. Diseases and certain medications can weaken the immune system.

Also, eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Plants contain immune system boosting compounds such as antioxidants that help keep you well.

Stress has a significant impact on the immune system, too. If you are under a lot of stress, find ways to cope. Meditation and exercise are examples of ways to reduce stress naturally.

There are lifestyle changes you can make to help, as well. First, if you smoke, stop. Most states have programs that can support you with tools that will make stopping easier at little or no cost.

Eating right, getting enough sleep, and practicing good hygiene, along with a yearly flu shot, will go a long way toward preventing a sore throat and the flu. If you feel a sore throat, apply simple flu remedies to keep the infection from worsening. Things like staying home, resting, drinking fluids, and setting up a humidifier can help.

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