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Flu arrives at Appalachian

thermometer_t.jpgBOONE—Health professionals at Appalachian State University have seen an increase in flu and flu-like symptoms among students in recent days and want to pass along this advice: wash your hands often, cover your mouth when you cough and see a doctor if you experience symptoms associated with the flu.

“If you haven’t had the flu shot yet, it’s probably too late for those seeking immediate protection since it takes two weeks for the shot to provide immunity,” said Dr. Patricia A. Geiger, director of Appalachian’s Student Health Services. “However, since we will often have more than one wave of flu throughout the flu season, a shot taken today would protect against future flu outbreaks later this season.”

Geiger says individuals also can take other measures to guard against getting the flu.

Frequent hand washing is one of the best protections against the flu and other respiratory illnesses. Viruses can live for several hours on some surfaces, so health professionals recommend frequent hand washing with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer should contain 50 percent or more alcohol. Getting plenty of rest, eating well, managing stress and getting exercise also provide protection against the flu.

Another way to help prevent colds and flu is to exercise regularly.

David Nieman is director of the Human Performance Lab in Appalachian’s Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science. He has studied the beneficial effects of exercise on the immune system for more than 20 years.

Random studies of young and older adults each yielded the same results: near daily exercise boosts the immune system and reduces sickness. “People who walk at a brisk pace for 40 or 45 minutes on a nearly daily basis have half the sick days with the common cold than people who don’t walk at all,” Nieman said.

Regular exercise releases more “killer cells” and antibodies throughout the body, Nieman said. These natural immune cells circulate in the body, providing the first line of defense against bacteria, viruses and other germs. However, too much exercise — such as an hour-and-a-half- long run or bike ride — can weaken the immune system’s ability to fight illness.

Nieman said that many factors lead to catching the flu or a cold, and that in addition to exercise, people should practice good health habits. “The cold and flu virus can live on cold, inanimate objects for more than three hours. If you touch that object, then touch your eye or nose, you self inoculate the virus into the upper airway where it divides and lives,” he said. “That’s why good hygiene is just as important.”

For more information about protection from the flu, visit