Protect Yourself Against the FluOct. 16, 2019
Anyone can get the flu. Even healthy people can get sick and spread it to others who are more vulnerable. The flu can lead to misery, causing fevers, body aches, chills and severe sinus symptoms.
Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself from the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
People 65 and older are among those who are most at risk, as well as young children, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot as soon as the vaccine becomes available — if possible, by October.
“It takes about two weeks after the shot for antibodies to provide protection,” says Dr. Jewel Lincoln, a family medicine physician with Houston Methodist.
Flu symptoms and treatment
People often think of the flu as a gastrointestinal phenomenon — the so-called “stomach flu” — but it’s not. The flu is a serious respiratory infection. Because of that, you may have symptoms such as a dry cough and dismiss it, thinking you may just have a cold. People who are sick with the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Vomiting and diarrhea, though these are more common in children than adults
If you or a loved one is considered high-risk, the CDC recommends contacting your doctor to receive treatment within two days of the flu onset. Antiviral drugs can make flu symptoms milder and shorten the time of the sickness.
Stop the spread of germs
If you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, flu vaccines are offered in many doctor offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies, as well as by many employers, and even in some schools. You also can reduce the spread of the flu virus by:
- Avoiding close contact with those who are sick
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Covering your mouth with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as faucets, toilet handles, doorknobs and light switches
- Washing your hands regularly with soap and water
In addition, having a healthy diet, getting proper rest and regular exercise can improve the immune system and help protect you from catching the flu.
What if I get the flu?
If you do get sick with the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone — except to visit your doctor. Most people recover from the flu in one to two weeks. Resting and recovering at home will get you back to work healthier and quicker than trying to push through your symptoms.
The flu is a serious condition that can spread quickly without the proper precautions. Do what you can to keep yourself, your loved ones and everyone around you safe this flu season.
Curious if flu cases are already on the rise? Visit Houston Methodist's flu tracker to find out.