Getting Ready for Flu Season
The changing of the seasons is in the air. Holidays are approaching. It’s a wonderful time of year. It’s also flu season. Not to be alarmist, but those germs are all around us – kids in school; parties and social events; shopping at the mall.
Catching the flu is no fun and can be especially dangerous for older adults and younger children. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends an annual influenza vaccination for all persons aged 6 months or older who do not have contraindications. The CDC also recommends vaccination for people with lung or heart conditions, women who are pregnant, those on immunosuppressive drugs and those in the health care professions. Timing is important; vaccination is recommended in the middle of October through November to be effective by the peak flu season in January and February.
Remember that immunization does not guarantee complete protection. Everyone responds in different ways to both the condition and the shot. Each year’s flu vaccine can vary in effectiveness, because it is based on predictions made months ahead of time about the strains that will be dominant.
Still, in general, it’s worthwhile in terms of reducing the chance of infection as well as the severity of the illness. Moreover, it can help deter fatal complications and limit the number of people who spread the virus to others.
How do you get ready for flu season? First, get a flu shot, based on your doctor’s advice. Stock up on medications for congestion, runny nose, cough, fever and achiness. Don’t forget extra paper goods like tissues and disposable cups. Do you know where your thermometer is and if it’s in working order? Ideally, you want to avoid making a run to the store when you’re feeling terrible.
The right food choices offer a little TLC during the flu. Some comforting favorites are hot tea with honey, nutritious soups and foods that are easy on the stomach – and that need minimal preparation. Some doctors advise steering clear of caffeine, which can lead to dehydration, and spicy foods that can be too rich for an upset stomach. It’s also good to know ahead of time who in your family or network of friends could help with your kids if you’re out of commission for a few days.
Flu Season Health Tips
To avoid getting sick in the first place, don’t forget preventive practices like eating right, getting enough sleep, staying fit and keeping the house clean, including using disinfectants in the bathrooms and kitchen.
Here are some additional suggestions:
- Since the flu is spread mostly through respiratory droplets via sneezing, coughing, and even talking, a good rule of thumb is to stay six feet away from an infected individual.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with regular soap or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner; avoid antibacterial soaps which aren’t effective against viruses.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and lips where these viruses easily enter your body, especially when you’re out in a public space.
- Be wary of dietary supplements that tout the ability to treat the flu. They can’t, although there is some evidence for vitamin D boosting the immune system.
Feel It Coming On?
Typical flu symptoms can include sudden fever, muscle aches, severe fatigue, prolonged sore throat and dry cough, headache and stuffy nose as well as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children). If you think the flu has you in its clutches, see your doctor to receive counsel on the best treatment options. This can be particularly important for people who are at high risk for serious complications. Also, stay home, rest up, get well and don’t spread it to others.
Lying on the couch watching daytime TV can get old quick, so think of other ways to while away the time. Read a good book. Working on your favorite craft can be soothing. Coloring or other activity books are great for kids (and adults).
Preparing for flu season is largely a matter of common sense. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.