8 Important Tips for Preventing the Flu
As we enter the winter months, flu season has returned. The flu, or influenza, spreads every year across our region, and it is typically most severe between December and February.
What are flu symptoms?
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “it can cause mild to severe illness, and at times, can lead to death.” The flu is not the same as a cold, even though it may have similar symptoms. Often times, flu symptoms come on more suddenly than a cold. Below are some of the symptoms described by the CDC:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Preventing the Flu
What can you do to help avoid getting the flu? The Centers for Disease Control makes the following recommendations:
1. CDC’s #1 recommendation: Get the flu shot.
The CDC recommends the flu shot as the “single best way to prevent seasonal flu.” Flu shots are available at your primary care physician as well as at pharmacies and other locations. As always, check with your doctor to make sure that getting a flu shot is safe for you.
2. Avoid contact with people who are sick.
Try to stay away from people who are sick. If you must be near them, be sure to wash your hands frequently to help prevent transmission of the illness.
3. Wash your hands often and well.
Use soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub, and make sure you are thorough. Remember to wash between fingers, under your fingernails, and the whole way down to your wrists.
4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Germs are often spread when you touch something that is contaminated, and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. By avoiding touching these areas, you help to decrease the risk of the contaminants entering your body.
5. Maintain good health habits.
Keeping up with good health habits can also help you avoid the flu. These habits include getting good sleep, being active, managing your stress, eating well, and drinking enough fluids. It’s also helpful to clean regularly at home, especially surfaces that are frequently touched, such as desks, phones, light switches, hand towels, and so on.
6. Stay home if you are sick.
If you do get sick, stay home from work, school, and errands if at all possible. Keep your kids out of school if they are sick. This helps prevent spreading the illness to others.
7. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Whether or not you have the flu, it is important to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. This helps prevent your germs from infecting others. Use a tissue if possible when coughing or sneezing; afterwards, discard your tissue in a covered trash can and wash your hands.
8. If you get the flu, talk to your doctor about antiviral medication.
There are some antiviral medications that can shorten the length and lessen the severity of the flu. If you think you have the flu, talk to your doctor right away about these medications.
We hope this article has been helpful in educating readers about ways to help prevent the spread of the flu.
The information in this article was modified from the Center for Disease Control’s web resources on influenza: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm and http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/symptoms.htm.