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Community News

How to Prevent the Flu

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 2
1/25/2013




It’s nice to give gifts to family members and friends. They appreciate your thoughtfulness and you feel good about sharing your time, talents and efforts with loved ones. But there is one “gift” that is best not given to others, although it is sometimes unwittingly passed along – the flu.

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious virus that can cause severe illness and even life-threatening complications. Flu viruses can cause high fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose and body aches. Complications may include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and aggravation of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. The flu spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks, and the virus goes into the air and other people inhale it.

Every year about 10 to 20 percent of Americans get sick from the flu. Most recover in one to two weeks, but approximately 200,000 people end up being hospitalized with the flu and 36,000 die because of the flu and complications. Those most likely to develop flu complications are children between the ages of six months and 19 years of age, adults age 50 and older, women who are pregnant during flu season, individuals living in nursing homes or long-term-care facilities, people with chronic health conditions, health care workers who have direct patient contact and caregivers of children less than six months old.

The best way to prevent passing the flu along to your loved ones and others is to get an annual flu shot. The flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that are expected to be the most common each year and usually becomes available in the fall. It may be given either as a shot or nasal spray, depending on the person’s age and any existing health conditions. You also can prevent the spread of the flu by avoiding close contact with people who are sick. If you are the one who is sick, try to keep your distance so others won’t get the flu too. You also should stay home, if possible, from work or school. Delay visiting friends and loved ones in the hospital while you are sick as well.

Good health habits are especially important during flu season, which typically lasts from about October through February.

Remember to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then wash your hands often to protect against germs. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth since germs are often spread when you lay a hand on something that is contaminated with the flu virus and then touch yourself. Try to get plenty of sleep, stay active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy foods so your immune system stays strong.

The flu is one thing that is best not shared with others. If you do get it, antiviral drugs may be taken to help make the illness milder and shorten the length of time you are sick. For more information about the flu, talk with your doctor or call 800-548-5559 for a free referral to a Los Alamitos Medical Center physician near you.

Submitted by Los Alamitos
Medical Center.