It starts with the sudden onset of a high fever. Body aches and chills. Sore throat and breathing difficulties accompanied by fatigue and cough. When you’re hit by the flu, you really feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. And influenza isn’t something to ignore: historically, flu pandemics can race through a population and can cause far more damage than a simple inconvenience. Between December and March, when flu season peaks, it’s imperative that you protect your family and yourself from this highly contagious respiratory disease and that you take the flu seriously. Here’s how!
Start With a Flu Shot
It’s best to get your flu shot in the early months of flu season in order to build up your immunity to protect you from multiple flu viruses. However, there are benefits to getting a flu shot as late as January. If you haven’t protected yourself this late in flu season, you still have a chance to bolster immunity and protect yourself and your family. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), flu shots are highly recommended for children between six months and four years old. Those age 65 or older are also considered high risk, as are pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses or weakened immune systems. But everyone can benefit from a flu shot, not just those at high risk for contagion.
You can get your flu shot at pharmacies, urgent care clinics, some supermarkets, some schools, and at your doctor’s office or nearby health clinic, and it normally costs between $10 and $50, depending on your insurance coverage. Don’t delay: a shot is your first line of defense against the flu.
Aside from a shot, the best way to prevent the flu (and spreading it) is frequent hand washing and using precaution in heavily populated spaces. Keep your spaces clean and disinfected, and encourage good habits from family members. The flu is transmitted by touch and is also airborne, so homes, schools, nursing homes, and office buildings are breeding grounds for the virus to spread. If there is a known outbreak in your area, care with your personal space can help prevent, but not eliminate, your chances of catching the flu. Keep in mind that antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers are useless against viral flu. According to the CDC, good health and hygiene habits are half the battle, so be mindful of what you touch and of how frequently you wash your hands.
Prevent the Flu!
- Get your flu shot.
- Wash your hands!
- Take anti-virals as prescribed.
- Keep your surfaces and bathrooms disinfected.
Uh Oh. I Think I’m Sick…
If you’ve been diagnosed with the flu, it’s imperative that you prevent the spread of the disease to those around you. The CDC recommends several steps for preventing the spread of influenza. If you’ve been diagnosed, follow these steps:
- Avoid close contact with others.
- Stay home when you’re contagious.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Again, wash your hands!
- Avoid touching your own eyes, mouth, and nose.
- Clean, clean, clean. Once you are well enough, use disinfectant on surfaces, bathrooms, and high traffic areas.
- Rest, hydrate, manage your stress, and be as physically active as you can be while recuperating.
- Did you know? “Stomach flu” isn’t really the flu at all. It’s gastroenteritis.
- An estimated 31 million Americans, or 10% of the population, get the flu each year.
- Over 200,000 Americans per year are hospitalized with the flu.
- 36,000 Americans die from the flu each year.
- Dangerous complications from the flu include sinus infections and pneumonia.
- The flu comes on suddenly, whereas a cold normally has gradual symptoms.
- Fever, chills, and body aches are common early indicators of the flu.