Bug off! Staving off the Flu Season in 2012 – and Beyond!

How have you fared during this year’s flu season?  There’s still time to get, or prevent, the flu this season.  Fill up your soap dispensers and stock up on tissue boxes, just in case!

We toss the term “flu” around pretty liberally, but do you really understand what flu is?  The symptoms?  And how to prevent it from infiltrating your life?  Well, the Nurse Practitioner is in – and here to clear things up.  Have a tall glass of water and read on for a minute.

Flu, defined:

Flu, or Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by a virus.  Flu viruses are typically divided into three types, A, B & C, according to protein composites.  The three types of flu include:

Seasonal flu

Seasonal flu typically occurs yearly between November and March.  The CDC reports that between 5 and 20 percent of Americans will contract a flu virus during theses seasonal outbreaks.  Check out the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website regarding the 2012 flu season: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/index.htm)

Pandemic flu

These particularly virulent strains of flu spread rapidly from person to person to create a worldwide epidemic (pandemic).

Avian (or Bird) flu

Flu viruses also occur in wild aquatic birds, such as ducks. It does not normally spread from birds to humans. However, pigs can be infected by bird influenza (as well as by the form of influenza that affects humans) and can pass on the flu to humans.

Flu symptoms: 

Sometimes people confuse flu with a common cold, but the two are very different.  People suffering flu typically experience fever, headaches, cough, sore throat, body aches or chills, extreme exhaustion and sometimes, vomiting or diarrhea.  A case of the flu will likely land you on the couch or in bed with very little energy to function, whereas a common cold simply curbs your enthusiasm.

Prevention of seasonal flu: 

  • First, the CDC recommends all people 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year – especially those at the highest risk, people aged 65 and older; children under 5, and pregnant women. 
  • We know you’ve heard this a thousand times, but hand washing is still your best defense.  Good old-fashioned soap and water works best in preventing the transmission of germs, but an alcohol based hand sanitizer also helps.
  • Avoid contact with sick people, and if you are sick, stay home, too.
  • Try not to touch your mouth, eyes and nose area.

 

Treatment:

First, if you get sick, graciously accept all offers for help.  Yes, your girlfriend can take the kids for a few hours, and thank her very much!  You need rest, rest, and more rest.  And:

  • Try to stay away from others, and don’t return to work until a full 24-hours after your fever subsides.
  • Wash your hands often, and cover your nose when you sneeze.  Throw used tissue away immediately.  (We know, yuck!)
  • Your doctor or nurse practitioner can prescribe antiviral drugs that can help you get better fast – but you should focus on staying home and getting rest unless you experience difficulty eating or breathing, or, if you experience persistent vomiting, dizziness or confusion.

Remember to visit your local provider, such as a certified nurse practitioner, to “arm” yourself with a vaccination.  By taking a few steps during the winter and early spring months, you can avoid getting sick like the plague!

Cheers to your good health,

Agnes

 

Source: The National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC)