Are You Ready to Fight The Flu This season?
More than 90 million Americans suffer annually from the influenza virus. When combined with pneumonia, the influenza virus, or the flu, is the sixth leading cause of death among all Americans, and infants and the elderly are especially vulnerable. With some simple prevention tips, and a basic understanding of the flu virus, you can be prepared and can minimize the risks of getting the flu this year.
What is the Influenza Virus?
Influenza, commonly referred to as the “flu’, is caused by an extremely contagious virus, either Influenza A or B, and starts suddenly and hits hard. The flu virus primarily affects the respiratory system: our nose, throat , bronchial airways, and our lungs.
How Do I Know if I Have the Flu, or if it’s Just a Cold?
While we generally feel miserable with a cold, the flu will knock us to our knees. A cold will cause sneezing, coughing, stuffy or runny nose and general discomfort. The flu will also have the same symptoms of sneezing, coughing, and congestion, but will also be accompanied by a high fever that lasts for several days, headache, muscle and body aches and fatigue. The complications that may result from the flu are much more serious than those associated with the common cold, resulting in pneumonia, and sometimes even death.
How Does the Flu Spread?
The flu is highly contagious and is easily spread by:
- Contact with droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person during coughing or sneezing. These droplets are inhaled into the respiratory system and infect the person with the flu.
- People who spend time in close contact, or proximity with others for an extended period of time are more at risk of contracting the flu virus.
- Sharing eating or drinking utensils with others is a common way that the virus spreads.
- Also, touching the eyes, nose or mouth can introduce the flu virus into your respiratory system.
Am I More at Risk for the Flu Virus Because I’m Older?
The elderly, infants, and those with chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes are at a higher risk of contracting the flu virus. The elderly should be extra cautious when the flu season arrives. The flu vaccine is available for these at risk populations and is highly recommended. Also, medications such as Tamiflu, can combat the flu virus when taken immediately when symptoms begin.
What Should I Know About the Flu Vaccine?
Each year, the flu vaccine is designed to prevent the most prevalent strains of flu for the upcoming season. There are three viruses that cause the flu, and vaccines against these are included in the 3-in-1 flu vaccine each year. One or more of these vaccines is changed each year because the flu that doctors are trying to prevent changes each year. The flu shot itself cannot cause an infection. However, it takes about seven days for the vaccine to become effective, so it is possible that a person could contract the illness in that time period. The flu vaccine is made from chicken eggs, and is not a “live” virus vaccine. The vaccine is made up of dead material, protein, and if you become ill, it is merely a coincidence with getting the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that just about everyone over the age of six months should receive the flu vaccine. The CDC states that severe complications can arise from contracting the flu, including pneumonia and death.
What Can You do to Prevent Getting the Flu?
The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for everyone over the age of six months as the number one prevention tool. However, because the flu vaccine is prepared from chicken eggs, you should not get the vaccine if you are allergic to eggs. Other prevention tips include:
- Hands should be washed often, for at least 15 seconds with warm soapy water, to ensure that any germs are rubbed off and rinsed clean.
- Avoid touching your face with your hands, especially your eyes, nose and mouth. The flu virus can easily be introduced into your respiratory system in this manner.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue, or your sleeve, never your bare hands.
- Avoid contact with others who are sick, and stay home yourself when you are sick, to avoid spreading the virus.
- Keep healthy habits for your lifestyle. Eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of fluids and get enough sleep and exercise.
Where Can I Get More Information on the Influenza Virus?
Don’t overlook the wisdom of your own physician. He or she will be able to provide a wealth of knowledge for you to consider regarding the flu, and the flu vaccine. Additionally, two great web resources are www.cdc.gov, the website for the Centers for Disease Control, and www.webmd.com.
Some times, the best way to recover from a flu virus are our very own home remedies.