According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year’s flu season was among the worst on record. So how can it be avoided? Simple daily acts, such as washing your hands throughout the day and making sure surfaces you come into contact most often are clean, can help stave off the flu.
In fact, viruses that cause influenza can survive on hard surfaces, such as phones and keyboards, for up to 48 hours. When you consider the average cellphone user touches his or her phone 2,617 times every day, according to research firm Dscout, smartphones can be a hotbed for germs.
“Experts tell us that the most common ways the flu is spread is through person-to-person contact, as well as from dirty hands that touch our face,” Mike Adams, U.S. Cellular’s director of sales for Iowa and Nebraska, said. “For this reason, we highly recommend washing hands after handling objects touched by others and not sharing your smartphone with others, especially during flu season.”
U.S. Cellular provides the following tips to help stay healthy this season:
• Keep Surfaces Clean: According to an annual U.S. Cellular survey, 41 percent of smartphone owners check their phone on average once an hour, while 20 percent view it every few seconds or minutes. U.S. Cellular recommends cleaning devices frequently with a soft slightly damp lint-free cloth, using hands free headsets and avoiding using devices in restrooms.
• Flu Outbreaks. Early detection and early response are key to prevent the spread of any disease that includes the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the official recorder of flu outbreaks in the United States. The CDC offers a free app, CDC Health & Fitness (available in the App Store and Google Play), to help users track flu outbreaks in their state throughout flu season. Flu Near You is a website that relies on voluntary participation from the general public to help track the flu in real time. The website also provides a map of reported flu cases, a vaccine finder and the latest flu news. The CDC’s Twitter account also is a helpful resource to stay on top of the latest information about this year’s flu.
• Sickweather (available for free in the App Store or Google Play) is the largest illness crowdsourcing community of its kind. It processes more than 6 million reports of illness monthly. The app provides real-time alerts whenever users enter a “sick zone.” You can be alerted for flu, Norovirus, pink eye, whooping cough and 20 other illnesses.
• Doctors on Demand (available for free in the App Store or Google Play) allows users to connect in minutes with board-certified physicians and doctoral-level therapists online over live video from a smartphone or tablet. Faster and less expensive than a walk-in clinic or emergency room, users can chat with a doctor virtually 24/7, including nights and weekends. Just like an in-person visit, a doctor will take a person’s history and symptoms, perform an exam and may recommend treatment that includes prescriptions and lab work.
• Alternative Medicines. Natural home remedies can be helpful for common ailments, such as the flu. Home Remedies+ (available in the App Store and Google Play) is an app that gives users access to the most common alternative remedies or herbal treatments for illnesses, such as the flu, common cold and high blood pressure.