Don't Let the Flu Keep You Down This Season

As told by Kelly Klein, M.D.

To avoid spreading the virus, stay at home for at least 24 hours after fever resolves.

To avoid spreading the virus, people are encouraged to stay at home for at least 24 hours after fever ends.

Typically, the influenza or the flu season begins in the late fall with the onset of colder weather and extends through early spring. About 5 to 20 percent of the population will get the flu.

Though the overall annual risk of serious complications are low, the elderly, those with chronic medical diseases, infants and pregnant women are at the greatest risk of complications.

Each year, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized because of complications from the flu, and deaths range from 3,300 to 49,000, depending on the severity of the virus.

Know the FACTS

The flu is much more than a cold; it is a severe respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications. If you can't decide whether you have a cold or the flu, remember the acronym FACTS. If you develop Fever, Aches, Chills, Tiredness and a Sudden onset of symptoms, you may have the flu. Other symptoms may include stuffy nose, headache, sore throat or cough.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a “Take 3” approach to fighting the flu. First, get vaccinated. Almost everyone 6 months of age and older should receive an annual flu vaccine, including pregnant women. The vaccine is safe, and there is more vaccine available this year than ever before. Get vaccinated now so you will be protected. It may take about two weeks for your vaccine to take full effect. Contrary to popular belief, the influenza vaccine does not cause the flu, though some people can have mild fever, fatigue and pain at the injection site.

Most vaccines are injected into the muscle, “intramuscular.” However, for those who don't like shots, a new vaccine is now available for people ages18 to 64 years which is injected just under the skin or “intradermal.” A live attenuated influenza vaccine also is available in a nasal spray and approved for people ages 2 to 49 years without pulmonary problems, such as asthma or emphysema.

Second, practice everyday prevention. Washing your hands often and avoiding close contact with sick people can help prevent the spread of the virus. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. And if you do get the flu, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever resolves to avoid spreading the virus. The same 24 hour rule applies for school children.

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