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Tips to Prepare for Flu Season

Flu season officially beings Oct. 1. Each year up to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu. Juan Fitz, assistant director of the emergency department at Covenant Medical Center, provides some basic information regarding flu and ways to avoid contracting the virus.

  • Influenza, the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by coming in contact with an influenza virus.
  • Symptoms of the flu are similar to symptoms of a cold. It includes: body aches, fever, chills, coughing, runny nose and headaches. People who have the flu often experience all or some of these symptoms. 
  • The flu is very contagious. It can be spread even before symptoms begin and after they end. If you think you have the flu, it is best to avoid other people so the virus does not spread. Do not go to crowded places such as school or work.
  • The flu is treated conservatively. Rest and consuming fluids typically treat the flu. Doctors can also prescribe anti-viral prescriptions, like Tamiflu. If taken as soon as symptoms are present, they can shorten the time of illness by a day or reduce the risk of complications.
  • This year, some doctors will offer a flu shot combination. The vaccine will contain a mixture of the regular flu vaccine and the vaccine for H1N1. The combination shot will allow people to get one shot for both viruses instead of a shot for each. Ask your health care provider if they are offering the combination shots. If they are not, get a shot for both the influenza virus and H1N1.
  • The best way to prevent getting the flu is to get a flu shot now. Waiting until the middle to end of October is too late. Children, people with a history of lung problems, the elderly, people with other health complications and health care providers should get a flu shot.
  • To prevent getting sick, wash your hands often or use anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. Wash your hands especially after shaking hands with someone or touching objects other people have used. Always cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing.
  • If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, contact your local physician first before visiting the emergency room. If you are having trouble breathing, your lips are blue or if you have an extremely high fever – go to the hospital.

Flu season is approaching and taking steps to prevent contracting and spreading the flu virus, Fitz stresses, is crucial during this time of year.