This year has been a particularly tough flu season. The strain going around this year has infected many people and has been more severe than recent years. The flu is a contagious virus that spreads through droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. It can also live on surfaces and be introduced into the body when a person touches his or her eyes, mouth, or nose.
How do you know if you have the flu? Some people can easily mistake it for a cold. Flu symptoms often come on very suddenly and can include a fever, sore throat, body aches, cough, headache, and fatigue. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is recommended that you visit your doctor. Though antibiotics will not help the flu since it is a virus, your doctor still might be able to prescribe you a medication that can lessen the length and severity of the illness. It is also important to stay home from work or school if you think you may have the flu to avoid spreading it further and risking getting others sick and then possibly getting infected again yourself.
Of course, none of want to have to deal with having the flu! What are the best ways to protect yourself?
- Get the flu vaccine. Even though this year’s vaccine is not as effective due to the type of strain, it still offers some protection. It is not too late to get the vaccine and many insurance companies will cover it as well. Each year, doctors recommend getting the flu shot since it is your best protection against contracting the flu.
- Wash your hands regularly. Try to scrub your hands with soap and water often, especially after being in contact with someone that is ill or touching common surfaces. If no soap is available, use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid contact with sick people if possible. Sometimes this may not be practical if you are caring for a sick family member, but try to limit unnecessary contact with those that are ill with the flu.
- Sanitize surfaces. Keep common areas in your home, work, and school space clean. Disinfect things like door handles, desks, and don’t forget your technology! Keyboards, phones, remote controls, etc. can often harbor a lot of germs since they are touched so often. Wipe them down with a sanitizing wipe often.
- Protect others. If you are sick and must be out, cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue away. This will help protect others and also keep you from risking infecting yourself again.
These precautions can help keep you well during this flu season as well as future flu seasons. Stay well!