By: Celisa McGrone, CRNP
Cold weather is on the way, and with it comes another flu season. Before the flu can knock you down, find out how to fight back and avoid the misery it brings.
Flu – short for influenza – is a common virus that infects millions of Americans each year. For most people, the flu isn’t dangerous, but people over 65, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions are at greater risk for serious complications, such as pneumonia and sepsis.
The flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the flu, but the tricky virus can mutate and produce nasty new versions of itself. The vaccine protects against three or four types of flu – and is updated yearly — but since the vaccine is manufactured ahead of time, sometimes a new strain pops up, putting more people at risk.
Flu season usually starts in October, so there’s no time to waste. Here’s what you can do.
- Get a flu shot: No surprise here – the annual flu vaccine is the number one way to protect yourself and your family. The vaccine is not 100% guaranteed to prevent the flu, but it greatly lowers your risk. Also, if you get the shot and get sick anyway, the vaccine can reduce the severity of your symptoms.
- After you get the shot, it takes up to two weeks to reach maximum protection, so the sooner you get the vaccine the better. The CDC recommends that everyone six months or older get the shot before the end of October.
- Take action to prevent infection: Doing these simple things can greatly reduce your risk of getting infected, or of you spreading the virus to others.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands with soap and water often. If they aren’t 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 flu germs.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu symptoms, the CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
- Ask your doctor about antiviral drugs: If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness. They can’t cure the flu, but they can make your illness milder and shorter.
- All MPCP offices now have the flu vaccine, so make an appointment to get your shot.
- Think you may have the flu? Check your symptoms.
Celisa McGrone, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, received her Master of Science in Nursing degree from Mercer University. She sees patients in MPCP’s Arnold office.