October and November have the dubious distinction of being the beginning of the annual influenza or flu season, which lasts until spring. The flu is a respiratory infection caused by a number of viruses. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that 5-20% of the population contracts the seasonal flu each year. The flu can be especially serious for certain populations including senior citizens. There are an estimated 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths annually due to the flu and its complications.
Symptoms of the flu typically come on more quickly than the onset of a cold, and can include:
- Body or muscle aches and pains
- Sore throat
- Extreme exhaustion
Complications of the flu can include dehydration, pneumonia and worsening of other health conditions.
There are safeguards to reduce the likelihood of contracting the flu. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends flu vaccinations. This should be done every year because the vaccine is updated annually to protect against the three flu viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness over the coming flu season. It takes an estimated two weeks to build up antibodies to provide protection against the flu, so get your shot as early as possible. ALC Home Health nurses are able to administer your flu vaccine so if you haven’t yet gotten yours, be sure to ask!
Other precautions that may help protect you from spreading flu germs include washing your hands frequently, covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and stay away from other people who are sick.
If you have flu-like symptoms, see your medical professional immediately. Anti-viral drugs can help reduce the severity of the illness, but work most effectively when administered early.