It’s nice to give gifts to family members and friends. But there is one “gift” that is best not given to others — the flu.
About the Flu
Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious virus that can cause severe illness and even life-threatening complications. Flu viruses can cause high fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, and body aches. Complications may include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and aggravation of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. The flu spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks, and the virus goes into the air and other people inhale it.
Who is at Risk?
About 10 to 20 percent of Americans get sick from the flu every year. Most recover in one to two weeks, but thousands of people end up being hospitalized due to flu and complications that stem from the illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control, those most likely to develop flu complications are children younger than 5, adults age 65 and older, women who are pregnant, and people with chronic health conditions.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The best way to prevent passing the flu along to your loved ones and others is to get an annual flu shot. The flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that are expected to be the most common each year. It may be given either as a shot or nasal spray, depending on the person’s age and any existing health conditions. You also can prevent the spread of the flu by avoiding close contact with people who are sick. If you are the one who is sick, try to keep your distance so others won’t get the flu too. You also should stay home, if possible, from work or school.
Good health habits are especially important during flu season, which typically lasts through February. Remember to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then wash your hands often to protect against germs. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth since germs are often spread when you lay a hand on something that is contaminated with the flu virus and then touch yourself. Try to get plenty of sleep, stay active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy foods so your immune system stays strong.
The flu is one thing that is best not shared with others. If you do get it, antiviral drugs may be taken to help make the illness milder and shorten the length of time you are sick. For more information about the flu or getting the flu vaccine, talk with your doctor or visit www.cdc.gov/flu.
By James Colvard, DO
James Colvard, D.O. is a family medicine physician with the Brookwood Baptist Primary Care – Oak Mountain location on Highway 119 in Pelham.
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