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Three Steps to Fight the Flu

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Think it’s too late to get the flu? Think again.

The timing of flu seasons is unpredictable and can vary in terms of when the season starts, when it peaks and when it ends.  Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that we are experiencing the latest start to a flu season in decades, and this means we could be seeing flu all the way through the spring.

Influenza (the flu) is a serious contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. The CDC urges everyone to take the following actions to protect themselves and others from the flu.

1. Take time to get a flu vaccine.

  • The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
  • While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be most common.
  • Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the vaccines are available.
  • Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.
  • People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease, and people 65 years and older.
  • Vaccination also is important for health care workers and other people who live with or care for high risk people to keep from spreading flu to high risk people.
  • Children younger than six months are at high risk of serious flu illness but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated instead.

2. Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.
  • If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness.
  • Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.
  • Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications.
  • It's very important that antiviral drugs be used early (within the first two days of symptoms) to treat people who are very sick (such as those who are hospitalized) or people who are sick with flu symptoms and who are at increased risk of severe flu illness, such as pregnant women, young children, people 65 and older, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Visit CDC's website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ to find out what to do if you get sick with the flu and how to care for someone at home who is sick with the flu.



Reprinted from Integrated Behavioral Health by permission.

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