What You Need To Know About the Flu
How to Protect Yourself and Your Family
As Alison Heath, LPN and Co-Founder of Home Call Nurse explains, “The flu is not something that anyone should take lightly. It should be viewed as a huge threat, and can be fatal particularly in children and the elderly.”
What we simply call “flu season” is in fact an annual epidemic which the United States experiences each and every year. According to the CDC, “the flu has resulted in between 9.3 million – 49.0 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 960,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 – 79,000 deaths annually since 2010.”
So what can you do to make sure this doesn’t affect you and your loved ones? Education and preparation are key to ensuring that you don’t fall prey to the flu this year.
Symptoms of the Flu
When it comes to recognizing the flu, it is necessary to discuss what the flu is and what it is not. The term “flu” is often used as a blanket term to cover any type of illness that affects our stomach, or just generally makes us feel awful. In reality, it is much more specific than that.
First, let’s talk about the difference between the “stomach flu” and influenza.
“The term “stomach flu” is often referred to as a gastrointestinal virus or “GI bug”. These symptoms are different as they are more localized to the gastrointestinal tract. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are typical symptoms here,” explains Alison.
“The flu comes from the virus called the “influenza virus” and affects more systems in the body,” says Alison. This is part of what makes the flu so dangerous. Symptoms of influenza, or the flu as we now refer to it, include fever, sore throat, body aches, cough and fatigue.
The flu is a very dynamic virus that can quickly and effectively adapt to its environment. This is why you can’t just get a flu shot once and be covered for years to come. As Alison explains, “The strains of flu are constantly changing, but the CDC anticipates annually which strains will be the most common.”
For the 2018-2019 flu season, the CDC was able to develop a quadrivalent vaccine. This means that it protects against two strains of Type A flu and two strains of Type B flu as well. This is great news since the more strains we can protect from at one time, the more effective it is.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself & Your Family
Get a Flu Shot – The first thing you can do to build a line of defense against the flu is get a flu shot. The CDC recommends a flu shot for everyone 6 months of age and older.
“Although you’re not 100% protected, it’s like driving your car around with no seatbelt. A seatbelt doesn’t prevent an accident, but it can help lessen the severity of a negative outcome tremendously,” says Alison.
There are a variety of different options available based on the needs of the individual. Standard dose flu shots are given with a needle or jet injector into the muscle, usually for individuals between the ages of 18 and 64. For adults over the age of 65, there are high-dose shots and shots made with adjuvant to account for a lower protective immune response. Contact us here to make an appointment for your next flu shot.
Alternatives to the Needle – There is also a flu vaccine in the form of nasal spray that has been approved for individuals ages 2-49. It is important to note that people with some medical conditions should not receive the nasal spray vaccine. It’s not for everyone.
Since the nasal spray vaccine is still new in comparison to the shots, there is not as much data to back up its efficacy. While the nasal spray is a good option for some, it may not be as effective in all individuals to protect against the virus.
General Good Practices for Virus Protection
All efforts should be taken to protect against the flu and some of the best ways to do that are very simple.
Good hand washing is a tried and true method to protect from illness. The spread of germs is inevitable, but an easy hand washing can offer a great defense.
Avoid close contact with sick individuals – This works both ways, if you are sick keep your distance from others to protect them too.
Cover your mouth and nose – The flu and other respiratory illnesses are spread through the air when you cough and sneeze. Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue helps stop those germs from spreading to those around you.
Stay Home When You Are Sick – We all have busy schedules and things that demand our attention and focus on a daily basis. However, when you have the flu, the safety of yourself and those around you must be your priority.
Clean Frequently Touched Objects – Surfaces like doorknobs, keyboards and phones can easily collect germs from a large number of people, making them prime locations to pick up the flu. Clean them with alcohol-based hand rubs or disposable wipes.
If you do get sick, make a healthcare appointment. We can perform an evaluation to find out if antiviral drugs are a possible treatment. These drugs work best when administered within 48 hours so don’t delay.
How to Get a Flu Vaccine
We stock the flu vaccine and are available to provide quality medical care right in your own home. This lets you get your flu shot without driving somewhere. Busy schedules can make additional trips to the store difficult, which is why we strive to makes it simple.
Primary care doctors and urgent-care centers also have the flu vaccine available. You can get a flu shot at most of your local neighborhood pharmacies, like Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid.
Don’t let a hectic schedule put you or your loved ones at risk. Schedule your appointment today and let us help protect your family.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2018-2019 Influenza Season.