No Flu for You!
3 ways to reduce the impact of this seasonal menace.
Why take the chance that the flu—with its fever, dry cough, sore throat, body aches and chills—will strike you this year? The influenza virus, a contagious infection of the respiratory system, affects 10 to 20 percent of the population annually. Each year the flu is different, and more or less severe. Since 2010 in the U.S., deaths from the flu or its complications have ranged from 12,000 to 56,000. Fortunately, there are preventive steps you can take to avoid the flu.
GET A FLU SHOT
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine every season. It will reduce your risk of coming down with the flu and of spreading it to others. This is especially important if you spend time with someone at higher risk of flu complications (see side column) or if you have a child who is too young to be vaccinated.
Ideally, have your shot at the start of the season, which means in October or November. The vaccine is very safe, there typically are no serious side effects, and it’s often covered by insurance.
Talk to your doctor before getting a flu shot if you have an allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome or an acute illness. To receive a flu vaccine, visit your primary-care physician or pharmacy.
This might seem to be common sense, but it bears repeating: Try not to have close contact with anyone who’s infected. And if you’re sick yourself, stay home and get well. When someone who has the flu coughs or sneezes, the virus is expelled into the air and may be inhaled by others. That’s why health experts recommend sneezing or coughing into the crook of your arm. Other ways to protect against both spreading germs if you’re sick and catching germs if you’re not: Wash your hands frequently, and keep them away from your eyes, nose and mouth (touching these areas can spread the bacteria).
KEEP YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM STRONG
Boost your immune system by staying on top of fundamental healthy habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, drink a lot of fluids, maintain a balanced diet and manage stress.
What’s your Flu IQ?
TAKE OUR QUIZ AND SEE HOW PREPARED YOU REALLY ARE FOR THIS YEAR’S FLU SEASON.
Maybe the flu won’t strike you this year, with its fever, dry cough, sore throat, body aches and chills. But why take the chance? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that tens of thousands of people die from the flu and flu-related complications each year. Prevention is key—take our quiz, based on the latest CDC information, and learn what to do to avoid the flu.
1. Which of these symptoms is more specific to the flu than to a common cold?
- Body ache
- None of the above
2. Which of these are good steps to take to avoid getting the flu?
- Avoid infected individuals
- Get a flu vaccine
- Drink lots of fluids and maintain a balanced diet
- Wash your hands often
- All of the above
3. When you’re exposed to the flu, how long does it typically take for you to become ill?
- One to four days
- One week to 10 days
- An hour or two
- A month
4. Who is not among those at highest risk for developing serious complications from the flu?
- Pregnant women
- People 65 years of age and older
- People who work more than 40 hours per week
- People with chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes
- Young children
5. Which of these are recommended to help avoid the spread of the flu?
- Cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm
- Wash hands frequently with warm water and soap
- Stay home from work if you have symptoms
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
- All of the above
6. Which of these is true about the flu?
- It is caused by being cold and wet
- It always comes with a fever
- It is caused by a virus
- It cannot be diagnosed through tests
- You can catch the flu from the vaccine
7. What is the No. 1 step recommended by the CDC to prevent getting the flu?
- A flu vaccine at the start of flu season (usually October/November)
- Plenty of vegetables and fruits
- At least eight hours of sleep/night
- Staying away from populated areas
- Daily doses of aspirin
ANSWERS: 1. 1; 2. 5; 3. 1; 4. 3; 5. 5; 6. 3; 7. 1
Your Flu IQ:
How many did you get right, and where do you rank? No matter your score, use the insights gained to reduce your future risk.
6–7: You’re flu-prevention smart 4–5: Your flu facts need a booster shot 2–3: The flu is likely in your future 0–1: You have no clue about the flu
Are You at High Risk?
People in these categories are at higher risk for developing complications from the flu and should see a physician as soon as they notice symptoms:
- Children under 5
- Adults older than 65
- Pregnant women
- People with weakened immune systems
- People with chronic illnesses, including asthma, heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes
- People with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more