Flu season is back in full swing this winter. Read on to learn how you can prevent catching and spreading the illness. When you protect yourself you protect those around you, too!
What is Influenza?
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory virus that can affect the nose, throat, and lungs. The most common symptoms of Flu include:
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Stuffy or runny nose
- In some cases, vomiting and diarrhea (typically only in children and the elderly)
Every body is different, so you may only experience some of these listed symptoms. The likeness of these symptoms to some other illnesses, like the common cold, can make it hard to identify the flu. There are tests available to identify the influenza virus, sometimes required for clearance before returning to work for those who work with the public or immuno-deficient. Flu can also include complications like bacterial infections and the worsening of already-present chronic illnesses such as asthma or congestive heart failure.
The seriousness of the flu ranges from mild to severe on a case to case basis. There are those who have died from extreme bouts of the flu–the flu is most dangerous for individuals ranging from ages under 5 years old and over 65 and those who have compromised immune systems. However, there are many easy preventative measures available to ensure the health and safety of everyone from this illness.
Fighting the Flu: Everything you need to know
Getting a seasonal flu shot is the easiest way to protect yourself, according to the CDC. These vaccines are widely available and often free at local pharmacies, general practitioner offices, and urgent care centers for the public. You need to get a new flu shot every year, preferably in early autumn before flu season is in full swing.
It is also important to practice everyday preventative measures in supplement to the flu vaccine. These are simple practices such as hand washing, avoiding those who are sick, and covering coughs or sneezes. It’s especially important to monitor and establish good hand washing habits in young children, who easily pick up illnesses at schools and daycare centers.
Another key to fighting the flu, and many other illnesses, is boosting immunity. There are many ways to boost your immunity. Maintaining a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, lowering stress, ensuring a regular sleeping schedule, and getting regular exercise can all help you fight off illness. But there are also natural supplements available, such as elderberry syrup, that can be used in conjunction with these daily practices.
Preventing the Flu at the Hospital
Be sure to practice careful hand hygiene and prevention techniques when visiting someone in a hospital or long term care facility. Many strains of the flu are contagious before you show any symptoms, and can survive for days or even weeks on hard surfaces. It’s also easy for someone with a healthy immune system to pass on an illness to someone with a weakened immune system in a hospital, even if they don’t feel sick.
When visiting someone in a hospital, be sure to wash hands thoroughly, use hand sanitizer when touching different high-traffic surfaces like doorknobs, and coughing or sneezing into your shoulder. Supervise and help any children to use these prevention practices. If you’re feeling ill, it’s best to postpone a visit until you’re feeling better. Even a cold or mild illness can become serious for someone with a weakened immune system.
By practicing these preventative measures, you ensure the health and safety of yourself and those around you during flu season. Have a happy and healthy winter season!