You have a cough, sore throat, aches, headache, fever or chills and stuffy nose. Uh, oh. Sounds like the flu. Off to bed with you. Rest assured, you’re not alone in your suffering. This is a bad year for flu season and Wyoming is right in the thick of it.

The most effective ways to prevent the flu is follow the “six-foot rule” and to wash your hands. A flu shot is also recommended. Then you need to do what your grandma probably told you: get a good night’s sleep, exercise, cover your mouth when you sneeze (with the crook of your elbow), and try not to touch your lips, eyes and nose.

The “six-foot rule” applies to anyone who seems sick. When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes or even talks, the virus is expelled via droplets – and this is the way most people become infected. The droplets rarely travel beyond six feet or so.

Wash your hands after shaking hands or handling objects others have used.

Germs can last up to eight hours on a hard surface, so it’s a good idea to use the wipes provided in many stores to give your grocery store carts handle a once over. Shopping carts aren’t the only thing to watch, elevator buttons, computer keyboards, airplane seats, pens and telephones, phones and exercise equipment are common objects that also hold viruses.

Not touching your face is easier said than done. According to a study done at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, we touch our face an average of 16 times per hour.

If you do get sick, drink plenty of fluids, wash your hands often, gargle or use a neti pot with salt water and you should stay home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can spread the germs a day before you feel sick and five to seven days after.

Add some just-in-case items to your grocery cart. Stock up on soup, tea, juice, frozen juice bars and fruits so that if you do start to suffer, you’ll be ready.

Getting enough fluids can keep mucus thin and help lessen congestion. An icy bar can soothe a sore or dry throat. With a glass of low-sodium vegetable juice, you'll load up on immune-boosting antioxidants. Green, oolong and black tea offer disease-fighting antioxidants. And breathing in the steam can help relieve congestion. Add a spoonful of honey and a squeeze of lemon to help soothe a sore throat. There's also evidence that chicken soup may help with healing and have mild anti-inflammatory effects.

Chicken Noodle Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

1 leek, white portion only, halved, rinsed and thinly sliced

1 carrot, finely chopped

5 cups chicken stock

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 cups shredded cooked chicken,

1/2 pound dried egg noodles

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the celery, leek and carrot and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Pour in the stock and add the bay leaf, thyme and shredded chicken. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the noodles, stir well and cook just until the noodles are tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove and discard the bay leaf from the soup. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, garnish with the parsley and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Recipe Source: Williams-Sonoma.com

Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian and nutrition decoder. Follow her on Twitter @judybarbe.

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