Fight Off the Flu – Colder weather and cold and flu season go hand-in-hand. While you may not be able to completely avoid getting sick. You can take some steps to protect yourself and minimize the chances of a serious illness.
Fight Off the Flu
The flu is a highly contagious illness that can result in hospitalization and even death. Managing your own risk of exposure to the flu not only protects you, but can help minimize the chances of passing on a potentially dangerous illness to those in higher risk groups. Those with compromised immune systems and risk factors such as age (both the elderly and young babies and children) and other health conditions are at an elevated risk.
What is the Flu Virus?
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. Symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.
Most people who get the flu virus tend to recover within a few days to two weeks, barring any complications. Anyone can get the flu virus, but young children, pregnant women, adults 65 years and older and people with lung disease or weakened immune systems tend to be more susceptible to more severe or longer-lasting symptoms.
Cold Vs Flu
Like the flu virus, the common cold is a viral respiratory illness. Many different viruses can cause the “common cold.” Cold symptoms can mimic flu symptoms, but a cold is generally less severe than the flu virus. Cold symptoms may begin with a sore throat and usually include a runny nose and congestion or a cough. Colds tend to resolve in about a week.
Know the signs
It can be easy to confuse whether you’re fighting off symptoms of a common cold or a more serious bug like the flu. A common misconception is that the flu is defined by fever, vomiting and diarrhea. While these symptoms may be present with a case of the flu, the flu is primarily a respiratory illness. A variety of tests can help verify whether you have the flu, with varying degrees of reliability. Unless a definite determination is required and may affect your treatment. For example, if you are pregnant and need to avoid certain medications. Chances are your doctor will not administer a test and will instead treat your symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Getting the vaccine early in the season is advisable because it can take as long as two weeks to be effective. Although the vaccination may not completely eliminate your chances of contracting the flu, it can minimize the severity of symptoms and reduce the likelihood of hospitalization due to the flu. Although the vaccine is available in both shot and nasal spray forms, the CDC recommends the shot as the preferred preventive method.
I got the Quadrivalent flu vaccines or Quad for short. This vaccine protects against four strains of influenza viruses. In 2017, I got mine done at Walgreen’s since my doctors office was out of vaccinations at the time of my visit.
Other preventive steps
Although it is not always practical or possible, avoiding contact with those infected with the flu virus is an important preventive measure. The flu is very contagious! Transmitted in the droplets of saliva or nasal mucus that occur from coughs and sneezes in some reports. Encouraging those who are ill to cover their mouths with their sleeves or elbows (not hands, where germs are most easily transmitted). Regularly and thoroughly washing your hands can help reduce your risk, as well.
Disinfecting with Clorox wipes and Lysol spray can help too. Apply to things like door knobs, sink faucets, phones, toys and other tangible items your hands can come in contact with. Allow it to dry too!
Treating the flu
Not to mention, Difficulty breathing, pain in the chest or abdomen, confusion, dizziness, severe vomiting and seizures are all indications that your illness requires immediate medical attention. Even if you aren’t experiencing these serious symptoms, you may benefit from a visit to the doctor. Your doctor could provide a prescription antiviral drugs to shorten the length of your illness and help minimize the severity of symptoms. Other treatments include getting plenty of rest and preventing dehydration by drinking plenty of water or other clear fluids.
Cold and Flu Prevention Tips
Getting a flu shot, washing your hands frequently and disinfecting hard surfaces are just a few things you can do to avoid getting sick. Additionally, Clorox partnered with epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Morse, a professor at Columbia University, to share some basics about the flu virus. Some of these were listed above.
The first and most important step in flu virus prevention is vaccination. You can’t get the flu virus from the vaccine, but the vaccine takes about two weeks to work, so don’t delay. The Centers for Disease Control recommends a yearly flu virus vaccine for almost everyone 6 months and older. Even when the viruses the vaccine protects against are the same as the previous season.
Keep your hands to yourself and away from your face
Germs are often spread when someone touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth after coming in contact with a contaminated surface. Wash your hands often, including after using the bathroom and before preparing or serving food. At church we have been waiving for greetings and not touching people. Try your best not to touch your nose, eyes and mouth. These are some of the most entry points for the virus.
Disinfect hard surfaces:
To prevent the spread of germs in your home and beyond, the CDC recommends disinfecting frequently touched, hard surfaces, such as doorknobs, refrigerator handles, light switches and faucets, with an EPA-registered disinfectant like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. They help kill 99.9 percent of germs that can live for up to 48 hours on hard, non-porous surfaces.
Avoid close contact with sick people:
So that you don’t miss out on anything this flu season, try to avoid people who are, or were recently, infected with the flu virus. Also remember to cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbows and not your hands!
Stay home when you’re sick:
Take a few days off from work or school if you come down with the flu virus. This helps avoid spreading it to others. On average, someone with the flu virus spreads it to two people, so staying home can make a difference. Most adults and children can infect others with the flu virus a day or so before symptoms develop and up to a week after becoming sick.
Wear a mask
If you must be out, please wear a mask that covers both your mouth and nose. This newer strand of flu, is caught via air borne.
Wash your hands and arms
We need to wash our hands and arms regularly. I mean wash with soap and water all the way up to above your elbows.
Missing out is never fun, so help stop the spread of germs and protect yourself this flu season. Learn more about disinfecting hard surfaces at Clorox.com. Plus find more cold weather tips for healthy living at eLivingToday.com.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images. Article compliments of Family Features & ELivingToday.com & Clorox plus revisions and additions from myself. First published February 16, 2017. Last republished or updated February 15, 2018.