When flu season comes around, sickness can take its toll on busy lives and active families. The flu is a contagious, viral illness that targets the respiratory system, and it has the highest occurrence during flu season in the fall and winter months. According to the CDC, 38 million people in the United States had the flu during the 2019-2020 season, and it killed 22,000 people nationwide that year. Even if you’re not at risk, missing work or feeling under the weather isn’t a good way to get through winter. Keep health concerns at bay with these five things you should know about the flu.
The flu spreads most commonly through droplets that people emit when they talk, cough, or sneeze. It is less typically possible to contract the virus through contact with contaminated surfaces like doorknobs, counters, or handles. This usually happens when a person touches the surface and then touches their face, especially eyes, nose, and mouth.
By washing your hands well with soap and water before you eat or touch your face and avoid spending time around sick people, you can help protect yourself. Protect others by coughing and sneezing into your elbow or a tissue, rather than into the air. These are important precautions to take in daily life to stay well, but the CDC recommends getting the flu vaccine as the top way to avoid getting the flu.
Most flu vaccines in the U.S. protect against four different flu viruses, working against the most common strains by helping your body develop disease-fighting antibodies. These antibodies are basically the scouts and frontline soldiers of your immune system, recognizing and flagging the invading virus cells to be destroyed.
You get the vaccine by a one-time injection, and because of how quickly the virus evolves, it’s important to get vaccinated each year before the start of flu season. You can get vaccinated through your local CHP clinic and even at many pharmacies.
If you do get sick, be on the lookout for symptoms like fever, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headaches, and tiredness. But remember, not everyone will have all these symptoms or even the same symptoms, so it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns and think you might have it. The only way to know for sure if you have the flu is through a lab test.
It’s important to note that symptoms of the flu look and feel very similar to those of COVID-19. If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, it’s a good idea to get tested for COVID-19 as well and stay home in the meantime.
Most people will need rest and lots of fluids to recover, so stock up on soup, water, tea, and juice to stay hydrated while you get more sleep. People at higher risk of complications should speak with their doctor to see if they recommend prescribing antivirals. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, contact your doctor right away, or call 911 in an emergency.
Children are most likely of any group to get the flu, while adults ages 65 and older are the least likely. However, when adults aged 65 and older do get sick, they are at a much higher risk of complications than some other groups. Children under the age of 2 are also at risk, as are people with asthma, lung disease, heart disease, people who are obese, and those on certain medications.
For more information on your risk level and how to prevent the flu, speak with your primary care provider about your unique situation. Contact your nearest CHP clinic today to get connected with one of our healthcare providers.