OK…influenza (AKA “flu”) season is upon us. In fact, some of you may have already had it and others may currently have it while reading this. But since a typical flu season often continues on into spring, here is a list of 10 things to keep in mind about this year’s flu season. And yes, keep in mind some of these points apply each and every flu season.
1. The difference between symptoms of a cold and symptoms of the flu are typically that the flu usually means aches and chills. An individual may also have higher fevers with the flu (but not always.) Symptoms of runny nose, cough, and sore throat are often seen with both colds and flus.
2. On the East Coast and parts of the South, this year’s flu season started off very strong. Flu cases there are rivaling the H1N1 season of over 3 years ago and well ahead of last year’s numbers.
3. The primary strain circulating at this point is an A strain…H3N2. But yes, other strains (including a B strain) are currently circulating as well.
4. How best to avoid the flu? Avoid contact with sick people. Now, not everyone who is sick has the flu, but this is a timeless recommendation. And always remember to frequently wash your hands with soap and water…my favorite universal health precaution.
5. What else to do to avoid the flu? Get a flu vaccine. The flu vaccine this year (next year it may cover more strains) covers 3 flu strains…2 A strains and a B strain. Most recent numbers show it to be about 60% effective this year…not 100% but obviously better than 0%.
6. High-risk groups include young children, pregnant women, those 65 years and older, and those with chronic health conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes.) Flu vaccines are highly highly recommended in these groups.
7. If you do have the flu, please avoid contact with others for at least 24 hours after being fever free. Also, and this applies with any upper respiratory tract infection, when coughing or sneezing; please use a tissue and when none available, cough or sneeze into your elbow area and not into your hands. And as above, please remember to frequently wash your hands.
8. Are there any medications to use when you have the flu? Yes, and so far this season’s reports say they can be effective (if started within 48 hours of symptoms appearing) in reducing and easing the symptoms by about a day. A prescription is required and side effects can occur so please discuss with your physician on whether it’s worth taking.
9. Some of the complications of acquiring the flu include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis, and ear infections.
10. Does getting the flu in December mean I won’t get it in February? Unfortunately not. Each season more than 1 strain of flu circulates so it’s possible to get another strain a month or two later. That’s why the flu vaccine is highly recommended as it covers 3 strains of the flu.
- Dr. Jeremy
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