I know. I know.
With the record hot temperatures we have been experiencing this summer, flu season is the last thing on anybody’s mind.
But, the reality is that as soon as the weather starts cooling off and the leaves start falling, flu season will be here.
Historically, flu season has started around October and until April or May of the following year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), flu season peaks around February.
Any doubt that you and I need to be ready for flu season?
In this post, I will be discussing what you can expect as far as flu symptoms go, what you can do to prevent the flu and how you as an individual or caregiver can get through a bout with the flu.
Let’s delve into it.
What is the flu?
Influenza (flu for short) is a contagious illness that affects the respiratory system. It is caused by the flu virus.
One of the interesting things about the flu virus is that they “change” what they look like each year. So the flu virus that was prevalent in 2005, may not be the flu virus affecting people in 2018.
Because of this, getting a flu shot is important because each year, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health are able to tell us what flu virus is causing all the havoc and thus design vaccines that can specifically protect you against the “virus of the year”.
Older people and people who have a weakened immune system due to another illness are at a higher risk of getting the flu and experiencing flu complications.
Symptoms of the flu
Be aware of the following symptoms of the flu so you can report them immediately.
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Intense fatigue/tiredness
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in young children than in adults.
It is important to note that not everyone who has flu will have a fever or chill.
Thus if you are a caregiver, it is important to take a note of the other symptoms and report those as soon as possible.
How the flu spreads
A person can spread the flu even if they don’t know they have symptoms as well as well they have full blown flu.
In spite of this, people are the most contagious about 3 to 4 days after they have the flu.
How to prevent the flu
Preventing the flu starts with getting a flu vaccination each year.
As I mentioned earlier, the type of flu virus causing disease changes each year. Therefore, a previous year’s vaccination may not be effective in fighting the current virus.
This is why it is so important for you to get a vaccine each year.
Cost shouldn’t stand in your way of getting a flu shot.
Find out if your health insurance or long term care insurance covers flu shots- you might be pleasantly surprised.
Some workplaces even have the flu shot for free for employees. Ask about these.
The other major way to prevent the flu from spreading is to stay away from people who are sick.
This is very important. Simple things like covering mouths during a cough and frequent hand-washing are effective in keeping flu at bay.
Special Instructions for Adults Over 65
According to the CDC, adults older than 65 should also get the pneumococcal vaccine.
The pneumococcal vaccine protects against pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections. All of these can be fatal complications of the flu. Vaccinating against them means you reduce the risk of developing these complications if you do get the flu.
Ask your provider about the pneumococcal vaccine when you go to get your flu shot.
Flu treatment- what you should know
What should you suspect you have the flu?
You need to see a doctor immediately so they can perform tests to confirm that you have the flu indeed.
If you have the flu, antiviral drugs will be prescribed.
If you have antivirals prescribed it is important to finish the entire drug course even if you feel great after the first one or two doses.
The flu season will be here before you know it.
Arming yourself with the knowledge above will help keep you and your elderly loved ones healthy through the season and help you fight it if you do get infected.
If you enjoyed this post, consider sharing it with someone else who is looking for this information for the flu season.