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Flu Season Is Coming Soon. Are You Ready?

We are officially approaching fall season, which means pumpkin spice, flannel shackets, colorful crunchy leaves and all the autumnal accoutrements will soon be in full swing. While gearing up for the change in weather, preparing your body for the upcoming flu season should also rank at the top of your list. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help keep influenza at bay.

What Are Symptoms Of The Flu?

Flu symptoms tend to come over you quickly—as in a matter of hours. They include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms can last for a week or more. Even after they’re gone, you can feel wiped out for a few weeks.

It can be easy to confuse the flu with a cold. However, the flu is more severe. A cold usually begins with a sore throat that goes away after a couple of days. Then, nasal congestion or a runny nose follows. A fever is unlikely with a cold in adults so that’s one way to tell them apart. However, children can have a fever with a cold.

How Does The Flu Spread?

The flu is contagious, and it spreads easily through the air. You can catch the flu when someone who has it sneezes or coughs, and you breathe in one of the virus-laden droplets. You can also get it when you touch a surface where the virus landed and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Although it varies from region to region, we know that the flu virus spreads easier in cooler, drier winter weather. Because people tend to spend most of their time indoors in the winter months, it can then spread easily from person to person.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes it’s likely that the flu virus and COVID-19 could both be spreading this fall and winter. Since some of the symptoms are similar, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two.

Who’s At The Most Risk?

Like COVID-19, the flu can also become serious enough to require hospitalization or cause death. People at high risk of complications include very young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions (like asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease), and people who are over age 65. 

How Do You Treat It?

The best home remedy is lots of rest. You should also drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated. A humidifier and saline spray will help with congestion. Gargling with saltwater will make a sore throat feel better. There are over-the-counter decongestants and pain relievers that could help alleviate symptoms too. Your doctor can also prescribe antiviral drugs to help you feel better. If started within two days of getting sick, antivirals can shorten the illness and make the symptoms less severe. It’s important to note the difference here between antivirals and antibiotics. Antiviral drugs help with viruses and antibiotics only help bacterial infections. 

Is There A Way To Prevent It?

Germs are spread by touching a contaminated surface, like a doorknob, and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. You can help to prevent the spread of flu germs by not touching your face, covering your coughs and sneezes, washing your hands often and using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer—the same measures we’re already practicing. 

The very best way to prevent it is by getting the flu vaccine. According to the CDC, there are many different types of flu viruses and they change from year to year. So, one year, there may be a particular strain that goes around the U.S. and the following year’s strain will be different. Since the virus changes, the vaccine changes too, in order to be most effective. Getting a flu vaccine this fall is even more important: It will greatly reduce your risk and reduce the potential burden on our health care resources so they will be available for emergencies. Children under 6 months are at especially high risk of flu complications but they are too young to be vaccinated so anyone who cares for infants should definitely be vaccinated to protect them.

Riverside Medical Clinic is opening special drive-thru and walk-in flu clinics starting this month. For more information, as well as dates and times of upcoming flu clinics, click here.