Flu ‘pre-season' means time to get ready

12:33 PM, Sep 06, 2018

Get your tissues ready.

This year’s influenza (aka flu) season lurks right around the corner. Everyone knows it’s coming, yet, not enough people prepare for what this year’s season may have in store.

Each year, starting in mid-fall, influenza affects anywhere between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population , according to CDC.gov. Nearly 200,000 people get admitted to the hospital for flu treatment and approximately 36,000 die as a result of the virus.

The flu not only causes disruption in the home, but also in the workplace. The National Institutes of Health estimates the annual economic burden for the flu at $87 billion due to hospitalizations, outpatient visits and millions of lost days of work.

So, what are you doing to get yourself and your family ready for the upcoming flu season? Read on for what you need to know about the flu.

What is the flu?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus.

Flu symptoms may include fever, body aches, chills, fatigue or weakness, and headaches. These symptoms are less frequently seen with a cold. The flu virus most often spreads via the small droplets a person with the flu makes when they cough, sneeze or talk. It can also be spread by touching a contaminated surface. It is most contagious in the first 3-4 days of a person being sick but can be spread as early as 1 day after infection and as late as 7 days after becoming ill.

Flu season occurs in fall and winter, with a peak usually from December through February. Unlike the common cold, the flu is often much more severe with symptoms that come on suddenly, not gradually. 

How back to school can also mean back to illnesses

Kids and educators being back in the classroom means more exposure to viruses and bacteria, with greater risk of getting sick or bringing germs home with them.

Getting vaccinated with the annual flu shot is the most effective way to protect against influenza and is highly recommended for everyone 6 months and older.

Teaching kids’ best practices when it comes to washing and sanitizing their hands, covering their nose and mouth to cough or sneeze, and eating well will help keep them (and the whole family) healthy this season. Make sure to frequently disinfect the supplies they bring to and from school, including pencil cases, books and binders, lunchboxes and any other washable surfaces.

How to stay healthy this fall

A general best practice to avoid spreading and contracting germs is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or to use hand sanitizer throughout the day.

Be careful not to touch your nose, mouth or eyes in case your hands have come in contact with a virus or any bad germ.

Avoid exposure to those who are sick, and when someone has symptoms, they should be sure to cover their nose and mouth whenever coughing or sneezing.

Keep the immune system strong by consuming an abundance of fruits, vegetables and water daily. If appropriate, take vitamins and other supplements to promote wellness.

Regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces at home and at work, such as phones (including your cell phone), computer keyboards (don't forget the mouse!), doorknobs, faucet handles, remote controls, elevator buttons, refrigerator doors, toys, and surfaces in the car, such as the steering wheel.

 

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Vaccine is still the best prevention

If the idea of being out of commission and sick as a dog doesn’t appeal to you, then get vaccinated. The most effective form of prevention is to get vaccinated prior to the peak season. Each year, the flu shot is formulated against the strains of flu virus that based on research are expected to be the most common. It is typically available beginning in October.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older be vaccinated. Certain people are at higher risk for complications from the flu and are especially encouraged to get the flu shot: children under 5, adults over 65, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities, and those with certain conditions like asthma, heart and lung diseases, or lower immunity.

Banner Health makes it easy to get a flu shot, with urgent care locations that allow you to reserve your spot online before heading in, helping make it as quick as possible so you can get on with your day.

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