It’s that time again. Flu season is upon us, so now is the time to get your annual flu vaccine to reduce your risk of contracting the flu, and to limit the spread of flu throughout your community. While seasonal flu viruses are detected year-round in the United States, the flu is most common during the fall and winter months. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary by region, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May. This is why it is important to get your flu shot now, before the flu season gets into full swing.
The Flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu shot each year.
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with flu will have a fever)
- Cough, sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose, sinus congestion
- headaches, muscle or body aches
- fatigue (tiredness)
- some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Complications of the flu can include bronchitis, bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
In addition to flu viruses, several other respiratory illnesses also circulate during flu season and can cause symptoms similar to those seen with the flu. These respiratory illnesses include Rhinovirus, a cause of the “Common Cold”, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which is the most common cause of severe respiratory illness in young children as well as a leading cause of death from respiratory illness in the elderly population.
CDC Says “Take 3” Actions to Fight Flu…
- Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.
- Flu shots can also limit the spread of flu in your family and in your immediate community. The more people that get vaccinated, the stronger the circle of immunity is around you. This is especially important for your kids in school, and your coworkers at the office.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- If you are sick with flu symptoms, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
- Stick to a nutrient-dense, toxin-free diet, and avoid foods that tend to weaken the immune system, such as sugar, refined grains, industrial vegetable oils, and processed and refined foods. Eat more natural fruits and vegetables while supplementing with vitamins and minerals.
- Support your immune system by getting plenty of sleep to ward off fatigue and avoid chronic stress. Constant anxiety at work or in your relationships suppresses the immune system, opening the door to flu, or other sicknesses.
- Get plenty of sunshine and supplemental vitamin D. High levels of vitamin D have long been linked to lower rates of flu.
- Get at least 20 minutes of exercise a day to prime the immune system.
- If you are sick with flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness.
- Antivirals are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.
- Antivirals can make your illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. Quick treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
- Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk factor or is very sick from flu. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking any prescription drug.
Visit CDC’s website to find out what to do if you get sick with the flu.