Most people have experienced the flu illness or know someone who has. Unfortunately, each year, up to 20 percent of people in the United States get the flu. Most cases are mild, but they can be severe and even fatal. As many as 200,000 people end up in the hospital and about 36,000 die from flu-related complications. Don't be one of them.
There are simple steps in fighting off the flu and its complications.
Take time to get the flu vaccine.
The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting yourself and your loved ones against the flu. It's healthy for you and for people you work with, care for, and live with. Here are some highlights of this year's vaccine:
- Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine.
- Vaccination is especially important for high risk groups such as young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older, and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease.
- This season's vaccine will protect against the most common flu viruses, including H1N1 (Swine flu).
- The flu vaccine is available by injection and nasal spray. Talk with your healthcare provider about which one is best for you.
Take everyday precautions to fight the flu.
The flu virus is mainly spread through droplets when someone coughs or sneezes. You can also catch the flu by touching things (doorknobs, faucets, shopping carts, handles, etc.) which have the flu virus on them. Did you know the flu virus can live on objects for up to eight hours? Here are some helpful tips to keep you healthy this flu season:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it once (don't reuse old tissues).
- Wash your hands with soap and water. If you don't have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based rub, using enough to get your hands thoroughly wet.
- Avoid spreading germs by not touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
What do you do if you get sick?
Sometimes it can be difficult to know if you have the flu. Flu-like symptoms include:
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- body aches
- sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
*It's important to note that not everyone who has the flu will have a fever.
Here are some basic guidelines if you have flu-like symptoms:
- If you are sick with a flu-like illness, 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 without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs.
- Know emergency warning signs. Adults who have the following warning signs should get medical care right away:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symtoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Pneumonia shots are also recommended for some. The good news here is that a pneumonia vaccine is just as easy to get as the flu shot and most people will only need one or two pneumonia shots in their lifetime. The pneumonia shot protects against the most common cause of bacterial pneumonias.
The CDC recommends pneumonia shots for people 65 or older and for people 2 to 64 years old with certain chronic conditions.
Talk to your primary care provider to see if a pneumonia shot is appropriate for you.
Lastly, it's important to keep track of your vaccines. Let your healthcare provider know if you receive vaccines from other locations other than your health care provider's office.
Do your part to stay healthy during the flu season - plan to get your flu and pneumonia vaccines and encourage your loved ones to get theirs too.