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How to navigate this flu season

Health and Wellness, Body

Cue the music—flu season is here, and it’s rough this year. As influenza makes headlines across the nation, it’s no surprise that many of us are nervous about catching the bug and being out of commission for a couple of weeks. Now that it’s upon us, what can we do to protect ourselves?

We’ve certainly all been advised to protect ourselves with the flu vaccine, but it’s easy to forget in the hustle-and-bustle of daily life. And it’s true that these vaccines are not guaranteed to be 100 percent effective against the flu strains for the upcoming season (because these strains are unpredictable), it’s farbetter to get one than not. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it takes about two weeks for a flu vaccine to be effective.

According to Jennifer Dumas, a physician assistant at Adventist Health Glendale, this season’s flu is a heavy-hitter and is causing people to come into urgent care in droves. Dumas told ABC7 news it is absolutely worth getting vaccinated; If you’ve had a flu shot, your illness is likely to be less severe than if you opted out.

What can we do to protect ourselves amidst all the coughing, sneezing and germs flying around in public spaces? Avoid being around sick people as much as possible (and ask them to cover their cough), wash your hands frequently, and don’t touch your mouth or nose when you’re in a public space. Be sure to clean surfaces with disinfectant—especially doorknobs, telephones and desk areas.

If you have the flu, antivirals such as Tamiflu may lessen the duration of sickness, but it’s recommended to be taken within 48 hours of onset. Flu symptoms to look out for include fever and chills, muscle or body aches, as well as a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and fatigue. Colds, on the other hand, are usually milder than flu symptoms, and come with a runny or stuffy nose without a fever.

Julia Gustofsen, a nurse practitioner at Adventist Health Sonora, says that while some people may need to see a doctor from complications of flu (which can include ear infections, high fever, lack of sleep and bronchitis pneumonia), oftentimes it’s an illness that must run its course. “If you’re sick, have someone else go to the store for you!” Julia says, adding that resting at home and taking in fluids, Tylenol and Ibuprofen to control fever, and practicing good nutrition should help you get back on your feet. Those who are sick should stay home until they’re symptom-free for 24 hours.

Remember—it’s not too late to get a flu shot! Flu season will hit its peak during January and February, but can continue into May. Hospitals are recommending specific instructions for visitors who may be at high-risk for the flu, so be sure to check out their most up-to-date information before you head in for a visit. Stay safe out there!