Flu season has come, and the changes this year make it even worse than last. With the flu virus mutating and changing so quickly, preparing for a single season, let alone an entire year, is challenging. But with new technology, things might finally be changing.
What is the Flu?
The flu is back in force this season, and people are starting to feel the effects. Flu-like symptoms can begin as early as the first week of November and last up to a month. However, most people only experience them for about two weeks.
The flu is caused by a virus and can lead to serious health problems, including pneumonia, otitis media (a type of ear infection), and even death. Prevention is key! Get the flu vaccine if we are eligible, and keep our hands clean by washing them often and avoiding contact with people who are sick.
If we get the flu, treatment includes taking antibiotics if available, resting, and drinking lots of fluids.
Signs and Symptoms of a Flu
There’s no mistaking the flu when we catch it. The symptoms can be easily recognizable, ranging from mild to severe. However, this season is different than usual.
So far, the flu has been reported in a significantly higher number of people than average. And while there are still a few weeks left in the season, it’s essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms so that we can take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
The most common flu symptom is a fever, followed by a sore throat, headache, body aches, and fatigue. However, not everyone will experience all of these symptoms.
Some people only experience mild cases of the flu. So if we think we may have caught the virus, we must consult our doctor for an evaluation. If left untreated, the flu can lead to serious health complications such as pneumonia, which can be fatal in some cases.
Suppose we think we may have contracted the flu. In that case, taking appropriate safety precautions, including getting plenty of rest and drinking plenty of fluids to reduce our chance of developing dehydration or other complications from the virus, is essential.
The Difference This Year
The flu is back, and this season is different. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza activity has increased significantly this year. It’s the most widespread season since 2009.
This year’s Flu vaccine is only 36% effective against the H3N2 strain of the flu. So, even if we get a flu shot, it’s still not guaranteed that we won’t get sick with the flu. The good news is that there are several ways to protect ourselves from the Flu, even if we don’t get vaccinated. Here are some tips:
- Wash our hands often – especially before eating, touching our face, or going to bed – to help prevent the spread of infection.
- Stay home if we have a fever or feel very sick. Flu symptoms include a high fever, muscle aches, headache, cough, and difficulty breathing.
- Avoid touching our eyes or nose unless we need to for medical reasons. Germs can spread from our hands to our eyes and nose, causing severe illness.
- If we become ill with the flu, drink plenty of fluids (especially those containing caffeine) and take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief and fever reduction.
Vaccine and Prevention
This year’s flu season is already proving to be more severe than last year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of October 10, 2018, there have been over 493 confirmed cases of the flu in the United States so far this season, which is more than double the number of patients at this point in 2017. In addition, more people are hospitalized with the flu than ever before.
The good news is that there are several things we can do to protect ourselves from the flu this season. First and foremost, get vaccinated.
The flu vaccine is one of the most effective ways to prevent getting sick with the virus. It can help reduce our chances of getting severe complications from the flu, such as pneumonia or even death.
To ensure we get the correct vaccine dose, check with our doctor or healthcare provider about whether we need an annual or a seasonal vaccine for this year’s influenza season. Suppose we are 65 years or older, pregnant, or have a history of severe allergies, asthma, or other chronic illnesses. In that case, our doctor may recommend an additional vaccine tailored for us.
Additionally, keep our respiratory symptoms under control by taking ibuprofen if we experience fever and pain along our chest wall (as these are common signs of a cold), drinking plenty of fluids (especially water), avoiding close contact with people who are sick (including children), and using a humidifier.
Be Proactive and Be a Flu Fighter
This season of the flu is different from most. In the past, it was primarily a winter virus that caused illness in people over 65. This year, however, the flu has also been seen in younger children and adolescents.
The reason for this shift is unclear, but there are several theories. One theory is that climate change contributes to an increase in respiratory illness. Another is that our traditional method of preventing the spread of the virus- through vaccination- is less effective against this year’s strain.
Whatever the cause, it’s clear that we need to be vigilant about getting vaccinated against the flu. And if we get sick, we should take care of ourselves by rest and fluids and seek medical attention if our symptoms worsen.