You Have the Power to Fight the Flu
With much of the world able to allow freer movement and open businesses, you may feel like you’re starting to get your life back to normal. A return to a normal lifestyle may include your favorite things like indoor dining and the kids returning to in-person schooling. But it also means the return of flu season.
Last year the flu virus didn’t make much of an appearance due to stay-at-home requirements and mask-wearing. As the world reopens, so do your chances of coming down with the flu. It’s more important than ever to learn about this seasonal virus in order to make healthy choices to keep your self, your family and your community safe.
An Influenza Primer
Influenza, more commonly called the flu, is a highly contagious disease caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The virus spreads in the tiny droplets from an infected person when they cough, sneeze or speak. If you are close enough for these droplets to land in your mouth or nose, you can become infected. What’s worse is infected people can transmit the virus before showing any symptoms of having it.
In its “Disease Burden of Influenza” report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the easily transmissible virus has resulted “in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.” Flu season usually starts in October and peaks between December and February, though the season varies in length and intensity each year.
Identifying the flu can be difficult as it presents symptoms nearly identical to the common cold. Though many tend to identify a fever as being the main symptom of the flu — and you may have a fever if you catch the flu — it is not always a symptom. According to Dr. Edmond Baker, Medical Director at Equality Health, other symptoms include “a runny nose, scratchy throat, achy bones and feeling run down and tired.” In addition, your children may experience vomiting and diarrhea.
How to Avoid Trouble
The challenges of contracting the flu or caring for someone with the flu are entirely avoidable. The number-one way to prevent serious complications from the flu is for everyone six months and older to get vaccinated every year. You need to be revaccinated every year even if you’ve been vaccinated in years past because, as Dr. Baker explained, “the type of flu that comes every year changes, and there are several different strains.” Vaccination protects you and lowers the chances of you infecting others. You’re especially protecting those that are at a higher risk of experiencing serious complications like elderly adults, infants, young children, pregnant women and individuals with certain health conditions.
With COVID-19 infections continuing throughout communities, receiving a flu vaccine is even more vital than in years past. Both the flu and COVID-19 attack the lungs, which means contracting the two diseases simultaneously can be life-threatening. As young children are still unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and those under six months cannot receive the flu shot, it is your responsibility to protect them by receiving the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine.
Although the flu vaccine remains the best option for preventing the flu, there are other healthy habits and behaviors you and your family can do to ensure a healthy and flu-free year.
- Avoid contact with anyone who is sick. If you’re the one who is sick, avoid contact with others.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your arm when coughing and sneezing.
- Wear a mask if you live in an area with a high concentration of flu cases.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because those are the entry points for the flu virus.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after touching your face or a commonly used surface.
- Don’t share food or drinks. Stay away from communal dishes like tubs of popcorn and dips.
- Overall, do your best to live healthily. This means getting plenty of sleep, exercising and staying active, managing stress, drinking at least six to eight glasses of water a day and eating a nutritious and balanced diet.
Get Protected Today
“The flu is a serious illness,” Dr. Baker stressed. “I want people to understand that the flu has killed people in the past and it usually kills the elderly, those with chronic illnesses and young people under two years old. But this is all preventable just by getting a vaccine. We can really reduce the number of cases greatly just by doing that.”
Contact your doctor today to schedule your flu vaccine appointment. Need a doctor? Go to equalityhealth.com/members/providers to find one near you.
Published in Prensa Arizona, 8/26/2021