We’re headed into that time of year when the flu bug is gearing up to strike, so how you can avoid the flu?
“The flu virus is spread by fluid droplets from the infected person — talking, coughing or sneezing all create those little droplets that can make you sick,” said Family Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Wilson of SamCare Express – Albany. “Many people are contagious before they show any symptoms, so avoiding people who seem sick isn’t a great strategy to avoid the flu.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), individuals are most contagious in the first 3 to 4 days of illness, but may be able to infect others 1 day before and up to 5 to 7 days after symptoms start.
What does work to avoid getting the flu? Wilson shares these tips:
- Get the flu vaccine — it’s not too late!
- Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer (if soap and water not available) when you come home after being out in public and often throughout the day.
- Avoid touching your face, which can bring the germs from your hands into the access points of your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wear a mask if you have a weakened immune system.
- Practice good self care. Eat well, exercise and drink plenty of water to stay healthy.
- Quit smoking.
You may have the flu if you have a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills or fatigue. Occasionally you may also have diarrhea or vomiting, but not always.
“Most healthy people experience moderate symptoms but can convalesce at home,” Wilson said. “We are more concerned with the elderly, infants and people with immune disorders who might wind up in the hospital with complications.”
If you do get the flu and fall into a high-risk group or experience severe symptoms, go to your doctor within 48 hours, said Wilson. Your doctor can help you decide if an antiviral medication will help.
According to the CDC, you should seek medical care in the following situations:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
- Seek immediate medical care if your child is unable to eat, has trouble breathing, has no tears when crying or has significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
For a lethargic child, or anyone with severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, chest pain or confusion, go to the Emergency Department.
When you need care right away, Samaritan Health Services offers many convenient care options, learn more at samhealth.org/CareNow.