The flu this year is extremely infectious and sneaky. Folks are contagious a full day before they show any symptoms and can remain contagious for over a week after the symptoms improve. So, flu is spreading rapidly everywhere groups of people congregate. The incubation period for coming down with the flu after exposure is usually one to four days.
The strains of flu not covered by this year's flu vaccine are especially severe. Reports are coming in from every state that people across every age group from pediatric patients to senior adults have died from flu related complications.
- Don't discount how serious this illness is. Your doctor can do a simple test to verify whether or not you have the flu. People die each year from flu related complications.
- Drink lots of water. It is the best way to keep from getting dehydrated. You can drink other beverages too but tea and soft drinks will not hydrate as well as water. If you drink something that contains caffeine, it decreases the ability of your body to absorb liquid. If hot tea or cold ginger ale make you feel better, by all means have some. Just be sure to drink plenty of water too.
- Eat whatever you can tolerate to stay nourished. Your immune system needs liquid and food to function at optimum capacity for kicking out the flu germs. If you experience intestinal symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea, start with easily digestible foods like applesauce, bananas, toast, and rice. Add other foods as you begin to feel better.
- Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen) may help control aches and fever but there is no cure for the flu. Take them only in the recommended amounts listed on the container. Call your physician's office to verify they are appropriate for you to take in conjunction with your routine medications.
- Stay at home and rest while you are sick. Take care of yourself, and give your body sufficient time to recover.
- Isolate yourself from the rest of your family, as much as possible, to keep from spreading the germs to them.
- If you have the flu, do not go to work, school, church, sports events until your symptoms are completely gone. Even after your fever resolves, if you still have other symptoms like cough, runny nose, and sore throat, you are likely still contagious.
- Practice correct coughing and sneezing technique. Do not cover your mouth with your hand. Instead, cough or sneeze into your bent arm at the elbow. If you do sneeze or cough into a tissue or your hands, wash your hands immediately and clean everything you touch with vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner
- Do not go to the doctor's office for routine checkups during flu season. The waiting room will likely be full of coughing, feverish flu patients.
- Do not visit hospital emergency rooms unless you have life-threatening symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, uncontrolled hemorrhaging, or a head injury.
- Do not visit friends who are hospitalized with something other than the flu because you will pass by lots of rooms filled with patients who do have it.
- Wear a mask and wash your hands frequently if you are the caregiver for someone who has the flu.
The flu season typically lasts until March, so there are still two more months to go this year. In addition, the flu usually peaks and then the number of cases gradually decreases. This year's flu has shown no signs either of peaking or decreasing. It is still lurking around out there and may hang around even longer than usual this year. Some epidemiologists warn that there are indications that in the near future flu season may last all year.
One simple thing we can all do to protect ourselves and others from this dangerous virus is to get a flu shot once a year. The vaccine manufacturing process starts the year before each flu season based on the patterns of previous years. Some years the vaccine will be right on target and other years it won’t. Even in those years when the vaccine is not an exact match for every type of flu going around that year, the flu shot can still provide complete protection from some strains and minimize the symptoms from others. I have taken a flu shot every year since they have been available and this is the first year that I have caught the flu.
I hope none of you get the flu. But if you do, take care of yourself and do what you can to keep from spreading it to others. Here's to staying healthy, not only during flu season, but all year long!