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Simple steps for preventing the flu

Tuesday - 1/15/2013, 5:15am  ET

Safety tips to consider when taking over-the-counter medicines to keep flu symptoms at bay.

WTOP's John Aaron reports

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Keeping the flu away with happiness, sex, music and flowers

Dr. Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of the Mindful Living Network and Stress Institute

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Are you doing anything different because of the flu outbreak? How are you changing your habits? Call WTOP's Talkback line at 1-877-222-1035, post a comment in the story, comment on WTOP's Facebook Page or use #WTOP on Twitter.

Paula Wolfson, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - It seems like the flu is unavoidable in the D.C. area, but there are simple steps anyone can take to cut the risk of getting sick.

Dr. John Dooley of Foxhall Internists in D.C. says hand-washing is the most important thing a person can do to prevent getting the flu virus.

"Although vaccination is very important, even more so are the usual precautions to avoid the spread of contagious diseases," he says.

Dooley says people should wash their hands regularly during the day, scrubbing with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds each time. Hand sanitizer is also a good substitute, especially for kids in the classroom or parents on the job.

All this attention to hand cleanliness is important because the flu virus lurks just about everywhere - from that desk at the office to a child's toys - and can survive on surfaces for two hours or more.

Another tip is to cover mouths and noses with a tissue when people cough or sneeze, and always wash up afterwards.

And anyone who feels sick should stay home. Dooley says to avoid contact with those who are vulnerable - especially little kids, the elderly or anyone whose immune system might be compromised.

Some local hospitals have already put restrictions on visitations because of the flu outbreak, including all Inova hospitals in northern Virginia.

Keeping the immune system healthy is also essential to fending off the flu.

Dr. Kathleen Hall, founder and chief executive officer of the Mindful Living Network and Stress Institute, says there are several things one can do to strengthen the immune system.

"New research shows that even a little happiness can give you a tremendous boost," Hall says. "Things like positive thinking, playing with the pets, simple things. Do something that you love."

Hall also recommends sex, listening to music and keeping flowers in the house.

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