Staying Healthy in Flu Season

Fighting the Flu in Alabama

This is the time of the year when people are going on with their daily lives, looking for the first signs of spring. Unfortunately, before winter goes away completely,  bacteria and viruses come out of the woodwork. Dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases start spreading through hospitals, daycares, schools, and any other public places. That’s when you know. It’s flu season. Cue the runny noses, coughing, absences, and last minute germaphobia. The main question that people often ask is “What can I do to make sure that I and my family have a fighting chance against the flu? ” Thankfully, for a while now, our society at large has had enough experience in fighting the flu. So, let’s find out what we can do, either as a precautionary or emergency measure, to fight the flu.

What is the Flu, Exactly?

influenza virus
Illustration of a group of flu viruses (influenza)

While the disease itself is common, not many people exactly know where it comes from or why there are outbreaks every winter.  So, let’s shed a little light on the topic. The ‘flu’ is short for influenza, a term that comes from the medieval Latin word ‘influentia’ meaning ‘to influence’. That word in the 1700s had been interchangeable to mean “on the verge of an outbreak”. It wasn’t interpreted to mean specifically “an outbreak of the Influenza virus ” until the 1730s in Italy.

There are currently two types of flu viruses that are known among pathologists and the general public, Influenza type A and Type B. Both viruses cause a serious respiratory illness, which affects the lungs, throat, and nose. It typically spreads through the respiratory tract as soon as the host is contaminated. Symptoms include and but are not limited to:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with the flu actually gets a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches

The severity of the disease ranges from mild to deadly, and as of the year 2017-2018 it was the deadliest in a long time. Last winter’s flu season was the deadliest in more than four decades, with 80,000 deaths caused by flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu-related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death. CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent handwashing.

This year, there is 9.8 to 11.4 million flu illnesses, 4.6 to 5.4 million flu medical visits, and 113,000 to 136,000 flu hospitalizations between Oct. 1 and Jan. 19, according to the CDC’s weekly flu report released Friday.

Flu Prevention Tips

While we are nearing the end of the flu season window, it isn’t quite over yet.  And if it hasn’t hit your household just yet, it is all the more reason to be vigilant. Especially if your household has elderly persons, pregnant women,  or children with weak immune systems. Here are a few things that you need to keep in mind when focusing on flu prevention.

  • Get Your Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu-related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death.

And before you object, no, vaccines do not give you the flu virus. “The vaccine is made either with flu viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ (killed) and that therefore are not infectious. Or  it is made using only a single gene from a flu virus in order to produce an immune response without causing infection.”

  • Keep Antibacterial Wipes and Hand Sanitizer on Hand

Influenza is both airborne and waterborne. That means that you could get primary contact from a person’s bodily fluids or secondary contact when a person transfers fluids from a person to an object.  So, if you are wanting to prevent the virus from spreading,  it is important to keep your house and your hands clean.

The CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions (like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent handwashing) to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.

  • Stay Well Rested

If you want to give your immune system a fighting chance against the influenza virus, you want to keep it in working order. That means getting plenty of sleep. Sleep helps boost the immune system because of the production of proteins called cytokines. which are needed to fight infections and inflammation.

  • Eat a Healthy Diet and Exercise Regularly

Zinc and Vitamin C are important for your body’s immune system. Both nutrients combined with exercise will pump your immune system up even further. Think about adding in an extra daily dose of zinc and vitamin C when preparing your meals, and don’t forget to go for a jog once in a while. A healthy body will have more of a fighting chance against disease.

 

Things to Avoid During Flu Seasonsick person

  • If you are sick, the last thing you need to do is to try and work through it.  If you try to push yourself too hard, you will have less of a fighting chance to get past the disease and can even worsen your own symptoms.

 

  • People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins.  Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children and some people with weakened immune systems may pass the virus for longer than 7 days.

 

  • Take over the counter medications to treat symptoms if you know that is what it is. Don’t rely on homeopathic remedies that swear that they will cure the flu. Unless it is proof positive don’t put anything in your body that might make it harder for you to recover instead of help.

 

  • Don’t rely on supplements for things like vitamin C and Zinc. A lot of the time they do not work as advertised, just like the homeopathic remedies, and they don’t have to prove to the FDA that they are even effective.

 

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