Ways To Help Prevent The Flu
The beginning of the year 2018 has been one of the worse reported flu seasons in the past decade for many parts of the United States. Knowing the symptoms and getting prompt help from your health care provider can be key to lessening the severity of the illness for you. The flu is a very contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. This virus infects the throat, nose and lungs. In some cases more extreme cases of the flu can lead to hospitalization or even death.
- Flu “season” typically runs from October to March but in certain parts of the country the may fluctuate a month or so.
- The influenza virus infects the respiratory tract (airways of the nose, throat and lungs). The body’s immune system responds to this causing inflammation, which triggers sore throat and cough. It can also trigger muscle and body aches and cause drops in energy.
- Influenza is spread through droplets that occur during coughing and sneezing. You can also contract it by coming into contact with infected surfaces.
- The influenza virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours (counter tops, etc.) and tissues for about 15 minutes. It can survive on the hands for about 5-10 minutes.
- The flu typically lasts 4 to 14 days.
- This years dominant strand is also referred to as H3N2.
- The flu is a virus, therefore typical antibiotics will not cure it.
The following flu prevention tips can help you avoid getting it:
- Get your flu shot! The CDC recommends the shot versus the nasal spray for 2018. Many health insurance companies provide 100% coverage for flu shots or at least a heavily discounted rate. You can also visit your neighborhood care clinic at stores such as CVS and Walgreens and pay for flu shots with cash (no insurance required).
- Avoid contact with people who are sick, if you must be near them keep your distance as much as possible and sanitize hands if coming in contact with anything they may have touched.
- Stay home if you are sick!
- Avoid touching your eyes and mouth as this is a favored way for the germs to spread.
- Get plenty of rest. Running your system down weakens your immunity.
- Wash hands often, use soap and water for at least 15 seconds.
- Use hand sanitizer (alcohol based) when on the go or at your desk at work.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze to prevent spreading of the germs, should you come down with a cold.
- Antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu or Relenza can help speed your recovery but are available only from your health care provider. Many times over the counter drugs are not strong enough to help with influenza illnesses.
- Clean shared spaces more often during flu season, this might include kitchens, offices, computer keyboards, tablets, cell phones, phone receivers, even the office door handles, coffee pots and vending machine keys. Don’t forget the steering wheel in your car and gear shifter!
On A Personal Note:
I have not had the flu for a few years, so I’ve been lucky, but this year, it got me. 2 days after Thanksgiving I went down. Thinking it was just a run of the mill cold, I treated myself with over the counter cough meds, etc… but was continuing to get worse. By the first week of December I was at the emergency room where it had already gone from flu to bronchitis and was early onset pneumonia. By December 8th, I was back at the emergency room and was admitted with full on pneumonia. I was there 4 days and nothing they did was working. My lungs were full of fluid, I lost my voice for 4 straight weeks and the cough was unforgiving.
I was finally discharged with the hospital saying there was nothing else they could do and that I just needed to rest and let my body fight the infection. Nearly 8 weeks later, I’m still dealing with some light side effects of the late 2017-early 2018 influenza virus. I still have morning/evening cough and have most my energy back, but it’s still lower than before the infection. This event will go down as the worst and most costly sickness I’ve ever been exposed to, now totaling over $5,000 out of pocket and that’s with Aetna Insurance. The bottom line is I should have acted quicker. Giving the virus over a week before seeking medical help was not my brightest move! I did end up with the more severe version of the H3N2 virus and it was not a fun time. Stay healthy everyone!