February is peak flu season: Things you need to know
SAN DIEGO: Flu season is now upon us. Beginning in October and peaking in February, the season has been known to persist as late as May. Influenza is an infectious disease caused by a virus. It occurs in the Northern and Southern hemispheres throughout the winter months when the sun is at its lowest.
There are approximately 3 to 5 million severe cases of the flu worldwide each year, with approximately 250,000 to 500,000 associated deaths, according to Wikipedia.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year in the United States, the disease results in:
The flue is easy to contract
The flu can be spread through the air via coughs or sneezes and by touching infected objects or surfaces. To prevent the flu from interfering with football season, holiday activities and day-to-day life, it is critical to take measures to prevent it. The first and most important thing you can do is wash your hands often. Particularly when traveling – either to another place or just about town.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older get a flu vaccination as a primary method of prevention. Flu vaccines usually become available starting in September and come in the form of a shot or nasal spray.
According to the Center for Disease Control, those who receive a flu vaccine are 60 percent less likely to need treatment for the flu from a health care provider.
Furthermore, vaccines reduce the severity of the flu illness, the need for antibiotics, time lost from work and flu-related hospitalizations. Even death. Particularly in the elderly, the very young and those with a compromised immune system.
SIDE EFFECTS FROM THE FLU VACCINE
Effects from receiving the vaccine are rare, but it’s possible it could cause temporary headaches, body aches, soreness at the injection site and nausea. Those who are allergic to chicken eggs, have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, have a current illness or have ever had a severe reaction to a prior flu vaccine need to seek counsel from a qualified healthcare provider to determine if it is safe to be vaccinated.
SYMPTOMS CAN BE SIMILAR TO A COLD
Flu symptoms are more intense than merely having the sniffles and sneezes associated with the common cold. According to Flu.gov, symptoms may include:
- A temperature of 100 degrees or higher
- A persistent cough that interrupts your sleep
- Sore throat
- Headaches and body aches
- Nausea and vomiting
If you think you have the flu and the symptoms persist or worsen, seek immediate treatment from a qualified healthcare provider. Listen to your body. Do not go to work or the store and spread the disease.
FIGHTING THE FLU
There are things you can do to avoid getting the flu, or fight off a worse bout once you do get the flu. Including:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Staying warm and hydrated
- An over-the-counter pain and fever reducer, such as acetaminophen, could be useful (contact your healthcare provider).
- Use saline nasal sprays to clean your sinuses, just like washing your hands.
Severe cases of the flu may require antibiotic therapy. The severe flu may cause complications, such as a pneumonia-like bacterial infection. If shortness of breath, persistent pain or vomiting or dizziness occurs, seek emergency medical attention.
PREVENTION IS BEST
Preventing the flu is highly desirable, as opposed to needing to recover from it or risk its complications. Staving off unwanted viruses such as the flu could be as simple as taking adequate amounts of a vitamin D supplement. Especially during the winter months when the sun is less powerful, potentially causing vitamin D levels in the body to plummet.
Eliminating sugar and sugar-containing products will help stop feeding most viruses, which thrive on sugar. Maintaining overall good health by eating a well-balanced diet, keeping stress to a minimum, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly will go a long way toward preventing the onset of the flu.
Choosing to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle requires self-discipline throughout the fall and winter months, affording the very real possibility of celebrating the holidays flu-free, as well as the potential reward of having more time to enjoy them!
Also, avoid people that have the flu. Limit your exposure in stores by shopping when they are less busy. If you see or hear someone, a child with a deep cough and runny nose, or an adult who is sneezing and coughing, walk the other way.
And don’t forget, wash your hands often.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!