ARLINGTON, Va. - As fall and winter approach, so does cold and flu season. However, there are a number of ways that service members can ensure they stay healthy throughout the season.
It starts with getting a seasonal flu vaccination.
"The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year," said Army Col. Jack Husak, chief of preventative medicine for the Army National Guard. "The upcoming season's flu vaccine will protect against the three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season."
Receiving the vaccination is also mandatory for service members, said Husak, adding that the vaccine cuts down on the chances of both getting the flu and of passing it on to others.
Service members can also further reduce their chances of becoming sick -- from the flu or many other illnesses -- by simple practices such as washing hands to stop the spread of germs.
"Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, especially before meals, after using the latrine or touching common surfaces like public door handles," Husak said.
Other things, such as a balanced diet, also go a long way in preventing sickness.
"Eating a well-balanced, nutritional diet gives our bodies the fuel to live and also the vitamins and minerals necessary to have a strong immune system to fight off infections," he said.
Eating healthy is only part of the equation, Husak said. Maintaining an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise is also important to staying healthy.
"Exercise is a also beneficial to create a strong body," he said. "Exercise should be a mix of strength training to produce muscle tone and strong bones and aerobic exercise to increase endurance."
The key is maintaining a balanced lifestyle between exercise, diet and other elements.
"When it comes to healthy living, balance is important," said Husak, adding that rest is an important part of that as well. "Sleep is essential part of balance," Husak said. "Maintain good sleep habits and strive for eight hours of rest or more per night."
But, Husak said, even healthy people can get sick. Should service members feel sick, they should get plenty of rest and visit a doctor.
"Call your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of flu: fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea or vomiting," he said. "Protecting yourself is your responsibility and enhances readiness."