3 Steps to Fight the Flu: Vaccinate, Test, Treat
“It’s ‘Just’ the Flu”
“That Will Never Happen to my Child”
“I Don’t Need a Flu Shot”
We all have a lot on our plates, especially kicking off the new year. We often put things on the back burner or tell ourselves it will be OK if you miss a task. But one task that should never be overlooked is getting your annual flu vaccine. The flu doesn’t discriminate – it impacts people of all ages – even those who are healthy.
It’s not “just” the flu. Just ask the parents of 17-year-old Austin. On January 17, 2011, athletic, strong and otherwise healthy Austin died in the hospital with his parents and family at his side. Austin had not been vaccinated against the flu. Or the parents of then 4-year-old Bryerlee. On October 16, 2017 she was rushed to the emergency room. Bryerlee’s flu illness was almost deadly – but thankfully she survived. Her mom said,
Life gets in the way. But it can’t. I didn’t realize that every day I waited [to get her a flu vaccine], I was putting her life at risk. I’ll never be late again.
While the flu is a very serious disease, it’s also preventable, as these families learned. Here are 3 steps to fight the flu.
Step 1: Vaccinate
The CDC says that an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu. Everyone 6 months and older needs a flu vaccine every year. When you get an annual flu vaccine, you’re less likely to suffer from the flu, and you reduce your risk of hospitalization and death. Getting vaccinated also helps protect others you may come into contact with, such as family members, friends, co-workers, and community members.
It is particularly important that the most vulnerable get vaccinated, including:
- Children Under Age 5
- Pregnant Women
- Seniors Ages 65+
- Those with Chronic Health Conditions Such as Diabetes, Heart Disease and Asthma
Step 2: Test
Don’t ignore symptoms – ask to get tested for flu. Testing for the flu is simple and quick and should be done at the first sign of symptoms. If you are positive for flu and have been around people at high risk of flu complications, it is necessary to inform them of possible exposure because, if they get sick, they know to seek out testing and treatment immediately.
According to the CDC, flu symptoms can range from fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and/or fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children. You can also experience respiratory symptoms without a fever. Flu symptoms can look like many other illnesses and testing is the only way to know for certain. Because these symptoms can vary widely from person to person, the best line of defense (after being vaccinated, of course), is to get tested.
Step 3: Treat
If you test positive for the flu, you can discuss potential flu treatments such as antiviral medications. Antiviral treatment is expected to lessen fever and symptoms, and shorten the time you are sick.They also may reduce the risk of complications such as ear infections in children, respiratory complications requiring antibiotics, and hospitalization in adults.
Please remember to avoid close contact with other people and stay home if you can. If you need to leave your home or be in contact with others, wear a mask to prevent the spread of disease.
If you test negative (but are still symptomatic), consider additional tests to rule out other serious illnesses, and talk to your doctor about how to treat your symptoms.
Advocating for your health is essential to stay safe this flu season. Don’t forget to make your family’s vaccines a priority. It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine! Make sure to bookmark this page for the 3 steps to fight the flu.