The Best Steps for Preventing the Flu
According to the CDC, influenza activity continues to increase this fall, with hospitalizations and deaths rising. Already 21 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported as of December 3, 2022. Between 2010 and 2020, the CDC estimates that flu resulted in 9 million – 41 million illnesses, 140,000 – 710,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000 – 52,000 deaths annually. And it impacts everyone, even healthy individuals of all ages.
As we move into the winter – and with the holiday season upon us – it’s imperative that we use the best measures to prevent the flu or complications from this serious disease. And that starts with one simple and effective step: getting vaccinated. Don’t want the flu? Here’s what you can do!
Influenza is one of the deadliest vaccine-preventable diseases in America. Getting vaccinated is safe and effective. In fact, it’s been around for 100 years. And per the CDC, it’s the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses each year. Since the virus and the vaccine change every year, it is important to get a flu vaccination annually. And when you get vaccinated yearly, you’re less likely to suffer from the flu and reduce your risk of hospitalization and death. Everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccine.
Stop the Spread of Germs
Besides getting vaccinated; there are other simple, preventive actions to reduce the spread of flu. This includes wearing a quality mask around others. If you are infected with the flu and must be around others, you will be less likely to pass the flu illness onto others if you wear a mask. Another easy step is frequently washing your hands and ensuring children do the same. Hand sanitizer is a good alternative if soap and water aren’t readily available. Also, cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or do the tried and true ‘elbow trick’ where you cough into your elbow. And always avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Finally, disinfect high-touch surfaces often – from countertops to bathroom objects, doorknobs, and more. Cut down on germs and reduce the spread.
Get Tested, Get Treated
Several illnesses may start with similar symptoms, such as flu, COVID, or a cold. But the fact is, the flu is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause mild to severe illness and, as mentioned, can result in complications that can lead to hospitalization or death. Flu symptoms tend to come on quickly – within one to four days after exposure to the virus. And symptoms are usually more severe than those associated with the common cold.
What should you look for if you have symptoms? Common symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, dry cough, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose (nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common symptoms in children).
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to get tested, especially because they can look like many other illnesses. With a tripledemic expected this winter (respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and COVID), testing is the only way to know for certain and allows your healthcare provider to give you the best treatment. There are many types of flu with the most common being a rapid diagnostic test. After a quick nasal or throat swab, you will get results in about 10 minutes. There are other types of tests, too, but you can determine the best type for you with your provider during your visit. If you test positive for the flu, you can discuss potential treatments, such as antiviral medications if prescribed. Antiviral medications help prevent the risk of flu complications – including hospitalization and death.
With the CDC already seeing increases in influenza activity, a possible tripledemic on the rise, and the holiday season upon us with more gatherings, taking necessary precautions (especially getting your annual flu vaccine) is your best defense in fighting the flu. Access our steps to fight the flu, and share with your family and friends.
How do you view the flu and prevention? If you’re a parent or expecting mother, we invite you to share your thoughts in our survey.