Flu season is here, bringing aches, pains, fever, coughing, congestion and fatigue.
Flu can be especially bad for keiki and kupuna, who have a higher risk of developing serious complications such as pneumonia or dehydration. Chronic health problems such as diabetes, asthma, emphysema or heart disease can make flu even worse.
The Centers for Disease Control announced last year’s flu season caused 80,000 deaths in the U.S. Take flu prevention seriously to avoid potentially life-threatening complications and stay healthy.
GET THE FLU SHOT
First thing’s first — get the flu shot as early in the season as possible, preferably by the end of October. Getting vaccinated protects you against several flu viruses predicted to be the most common during this year’s flu season. Even if you do catch the flu, the vaccine reduces the length and severity of the illness. A 2017 study showed that among hospitalized flu patients, the vaccine reduced deaths, intensive care unit admissions and the duration of hospitalizations.
Seniors over age 65 can get one of two different types of flu vaccines created especially to provide a stronger immune response. The high-dose vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen than a regular flu shot, prompting the body to create more antibodies, while the adjuvanted flu vaccine is made with an additive that creates a stronger immune response. Talk to your doctor about which shot you should get.
While you’re at it, ask your physician if you’re up to date with your pneumococcal vaccination. This vaccine helps protect against pneumonia and other infections that can develop from flu.
TIPS FOR STAYING HEALTHY
Everyday precautions can also help you avoid catching the flu:
>> Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, or use hand sanitizer, especially after coughing, sneezing or coming in contact with sick people.
>> Wipe down frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops and faucets, with a disinfecting wipe.
>> Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
>> Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even if you’ve had the flu shot.
>> Get plenty of sleep (seven to nine hours per night), eat a healthy diet and stay hydrated.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET SICK
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself sick this flu season. Cold and flu symptoms can be similar, but generally if the symptoms develop suddenly (over the course of a day, rather than over a few days), and if you have a fever, you’re likely to be sick with the flu.
If you experience flu symptoms, call your doctor right away to see if you should be treated with an antiviral drug. Antivirals can fight the flu virus and lessen your chance of developing a serious illness, but they work best if taken within 48 hours of symptoms starting.
Drink lots of liquids to avoid dehydration. Resist the urge to go to work or run errands — instead, stay home and get plenty of rest. If you take prescription medications, ask your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medicine to avoid potential interactions.
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or stomach, sudden dizziness, confusion, persistent vomiting or a high fever and worsening cough. These emergency symptoms should not be ignored, as they can indicate serious complications.
Check with your doctor or health plan to see where you can get the flu shot. Flu shots may also be available at your local pharmacy or physician’s office.
Don’t delay — get the flu shot today!