(RxWiki News) Written By Anyssa Garza, PharmD, BCMAS
Not every sickness gets its own season. Seasonal flu activity often begins as early as October and November and can continue until as late as May.
The flu can threaten us with a potentially dangerous but very avoidable virus. This year's flu season is just getting started. Fortunately, you can take steps to make this year flu-free.
1) Get Your Flu Shot
The first piece of flu-prevention advice any health care professional will give you is to get vaccinated. Although flu season is already underway, it's not too late to get a flu shot.
The 2018-19 influenza vaccine will be offered as a quadrivalent recombinant vaccine. This means the vaccine can provide coverage for a total of four strains, including influenza A and B.
It's important to get a new flu shot each year. The strains you were protected against last year might not be the same as this year's strains.
The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as soon as the vaccine becomes available.
Getting a flu shot will provide you with a high level of protection against the influenza virus, and that's especially important for people who are at a high risk for developing complications that might land them in the hospital or result in other serious illnesses.
Other people who should make sure to get vaccinated each year include health care workers, family members of children under 6 months (who cannot be vaccinated) and people who live in homes with those at risk for complications of the flu.
2) Practice Proper Hygiene
Influenza is spread from person to person by germs that flow out when a sick person sneezes, coughs or talks. Flu germs can be transmitted from up to six feet away.
The flu can also be spread if a person touches a surface with a flu virus on it and then touches their mouth or nose.
Flu is contagious for a relatively long period of time. In some cases, someone who has the flu can spread the flu one day before symptoms appear and can remain contagious for up to seven days after becoming sick.
If you're trying to avoid the flu, it's important to keep your distance from people who are sick.
Frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds can help protect you against the flu. If you are not near a sink with soap, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Good general health habits will also help protect against the flu. Getting plenty of rest, exercising, eating well and managing your stress makes you a healthier person overall.
3) Be Aware of Sickness
You'll be trying to keep your distance from people who are sick, but also be aware of best health practices for those around you when you're the one who is sick.
Simple things like covering your cough and staying home from school or work can slow the spread of the flu among your friends, family and colleagues.
But there's a proper way to cover your cough. Coughing or sneezing into your hands can still spread germs, especially if you touch common surfaces or objects afterward.
Instead, cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw the tissue away. If a tissue is nowhere to be found while your nose tickles, sneeze into your upper sleeve.
If you're extremely cautious, a face mask can help you avoid spreading your sickness.
4) Seek Medical Attention When Necessary
Symptoms of the flu include the following:
- Fever or feeling feverish or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Diarrhea or vomiting (sometimes)
If you suspect you have the flu, see your doctor. Your health care provider can give you a diagnosis and may prescribe antiviral medications.
This is especially important for people who are at high risk of complications. Left untreated, the flu can progress into pneumonia or sinus and ear infections.
The flu can also make chronic health problems like diabetes worse. While many people may not consider the flu a serious illness, it can result in hospitalization or even become life-threatening for some patients.
Did you know you can get a flu vaccine at your local pharmacy? Next time you're in the store, whether you're picking up a prescription or grabbing some over-the-counter medications, stop by the counter and ask about the flu shot.