Every year as the weather gets cold, the flu starts to make its ugly appearance.
Influenza, or the flu, is a viral infection in the nose, throat, and lungs. Each year 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population get the flu. If you don’t want to be one of the unlucky people who have to suffer through the fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and tiredness of the flu there are steps you can take to protect yourself—and your family.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. Getting a vaccination is especially important for the following high-risk people:
- Young children
- Pregnant women
- People 65 years and older
- People with chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
What to do if you get the flu
If you do get the flu, there are some things you can do to make the experience a little more tolerable. Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care. If you have symptoms of flu and are in a high-risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider. There are drugs your doctor can prescribe for treating the flu called antivirals. These drugs can make you better faster and may also prevent serious complications. Otherwise:
Drink lots of fluids—the flu can dehydrate you, so drink plenty of water, electrolyte beverages or fruit juices. Stay away from caffeinated drinks—they are diuretic. Herbal tea may be good to soothe your throat.
Rest—stay away from work, let the chores go; stay in bed or on the coach and rest. In order for your immune system to work its best, you need to sleep.
Humidify—use a cool-mist humidifier in your room. This will help break up mucus. Be sure to carefully clean the humidifier between uses to keep mold from developing in the machine. If you don’t have a humidifier, try a long hot shower.
Don’t spread your germs
While you’re sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible.
The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
Always cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
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