What You Need To Know About Flu Season
Written By: BRITTANI DAY
Chilly air, festive streets, and gatherings every weekend. It’s that time of year again – Flu Season. The flu, officially known as Influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Catching one of these contagious viruses can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or even death. In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter, typically starting in October. While influenza viruses circulate year round, most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February. The flu is commonly mistaken for “the stomach flu.” Influenza is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease. Influenza can be spread in many different ways. One can even spread the virus without knowing they have it themselves. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During times like these, people can still spread the virus to others.
What can you do to prevent you and your loved ones from the flu this year and in years to come?
The number one method to help prevent getting the flu is to be vaccinated. Over the past few years, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the influenza vaccine has prevented millions of flu cases and tens of thousands of related hospitalizations. No one particularly enjoys getting a shot, but it is virtually painless, and far better than experiencing the flu. It is now easier than ever to get a flu shot. You can find flu shot providers at most of the major drug stores including Walgreens and CVS. Stores like Target and Costco now offer vaccinations in many locations, many without requiring an appointment. So not only do you not have to see your doctor, but you have the convenience of getting your flu shot taken care of somewhere you are already going. If you have not received a flu shot yet, do it now. It is not too late. Even part way through flu season is beneficial.
Another huge factor in keeping yourself safe from the flu virus is to maintain a healthy lifestyle even with all of the hustle and bustle that comes with this time of year. Getting adequate hours of sleep is very important in keeping your immune system working in full force. WebMD says, “Eating or drinking too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria. This effect lasts for at least a few hours after downing a couple of sugary drinks.” When you eat or drink too much sugar your immune system shuts down for a few hours. If you’re exposed to an ailment or disease during this time you’re more likely to catch it. Between Halloween and Valentine’s Day (October – February) we have so many sweets and desserts. It is important to maintain a healthy balance even throughout the holidays to prevent a curbed immune system.
Have you touched your phone, a keyboard, or a doorknob today? Chances are you have. Another way to prevent catching and spreading the flu is through regular disinfecting. Wash your hands with warm water and soap regularly, especially before eating or touching your face.
We use our phones to answer emails, check movie times, and watch game highlights. They are in our hands constantly and touching our faces regularly too. Because of this, and because smartphones have hard, plastic surfaces that viruses can easily cling to, experts say mobile devices are sneaky transporters of the flu. And when’s the last time you cleaned your phone? Probably not recently enough. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stresses the importance of knowing the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing. Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects, sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces, and disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. All three are important in keeping germs away, but disinfecting is how germs are stopped from spreading.
They are many other ways to prevent catching and spreading the influenza virus. Everyone working together can help fight back against the flu epidemic that returns each year. These methods of prevention, along with many others, can be found at The Center for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/flu/. Talk with your health care provider for more specific and in-depth instruction.
How To Fight The Flu
1. Take Time To Get a Flu Vaccine
• Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year before flu activity begins.
• Get vaccinated by the end of October
2. Take Everyday Actions To Stop The Spread Of Germs
• Avoid close contact with sick people.
• Wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
3. Take Flu Antiviral Drugs If Prescribed
• If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness.
• Antiviral drugs work best when they are started within 2 days of getting sick.