According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Flu activity continues to increase across the United States. The nation is experiencing an early flu season with high levels of activity concentrated in the south central and southeastern regions at this time. CDC urges you to get a flu vaccine now if you have not done so already this season. Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk from flu complications.
People with chronic conditions can be particularly vulnerable to flu, so it’s important that you do what you can to prevent it. Coughs or sneezes spread flu virus into the air, and then onto surfaces. You can take measurers so you don’t spread the virus to others, or so others don’t spread it to you.
You can reduce your chances of getting the flu by Cover and Wash:
• Cover your mouth and nose every time you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue and throw it away. Use your arm (not your hand).
• Observe regular cleaning habits if someone at home has the flu. Pay special attention to doorknobs, faucets, refrigerator handles, and phones.
• Vaccinate. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot. Flu vaccines are available in a number of locations, including your provider’s office. To find the closest place for a flu shot, go to HealthMap Vaccine Finder. This year’s vaccine is supposed to be a good match for current flu strain, but it takes two weeks after getting the shot for the vaccine to take full effect. Note that the nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV or FluMist) is only given to healthy people from ages 2 to 49. The CDC specifically notes that people with chronic diseases are not considered candidates for LAIV
• Every time you use a tissue, throw it in the trash and then wash your hands.
• Remember not to share anything that goes into the mouth.
• Wash your hands often and well. Use soap and water for at least 15 seconds.
• Avoid contact with sick people.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Have alcohol hand sanitizer on hand if you don’t have access to soap and water.
Giving a boost to your immune system can help to reduce the chances of getting the flu and/or reducing severity. This is particularly important for those who can’t take the flu vaccine. Things like laugher , being physically active, or having a strong social network can boost immunity. Studies of Tai Chi and Qigong have found that they can significantly improve immune response in older adults after only five months of practice. "A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi." Am J Health Promot. 2010 Jul-Aug;24(6):e1-e25. "Effects of a traditional Taiji/Qigong curriculum on older adults' immune response to influenza vaccine." Med Sport Sci. 2008;52:64-76.
People who practice Mindfulness meditation have been shown to reduce the incidence, length and severity of respiratory by as much as 50%. These results were nearly as effective as flu shots. "Meditation or exercise for preventing acute respiratory infection: a randomized controlled trial." Ann Fam Med. 2012 Jul-Aug;10(4):337-46.
Call your health care provider if you think you have the flu. Flu symptoms can often be confused with the common cold, but the flu usually comes on more suddenly and is more severe.
Symptoms of flu may include fever (usually high), headache, tiredness and weakness (can be extreme), dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body or muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (much more common among children than adults).
A person who is sick with the flu is contagious. That means they can spread viruses. Adults can be contagious from one day before having symptoms to seven days after getting sick. Children can be contagious for longer than seven days.
If you start to get flu symptoms:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink plenty of liquids.
- Don't use alcohol or tobacco.
- Stay home from work or school to protect others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue every time you cough or sneeze.
Take medication to lessen the symptoms of flu, but NEVER give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, especially fever, without first checking with your health care provider.
To learn about the flu go to the CDC Flu site.