Flu outbreaks are already widespread and may get worse. The flu is very contagious, and people with weakened immune systems, such as infants, children and the elderly, can be at risk for severe complications.
People can spread the flu virus one day before they start to show symptoms, so you might interact with someone who is infected and not know it. Be diligent in following these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lower the risk of bringing the flu virus into your household:
- Keep it clean – Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer to reduce germs. Disinfect high-traffic areas in your home and office, like doorknobs and keyboards.
- Keep hands away – One way people catch germs is by touching a germy area, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Limit touching your face, especially while out in public.
- Keep your distance – Flu viruses can be spread up to six feet when an infected person coughs, sneezes or even speaks. If you know someone has the flu, keep your distance.
- Keep covered – Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue. If you don’t have one handy, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow instead of your hands.
- Keep the immune system strong – It’s easier to get sick if your immune system is weakened. Getting enough sleep, managing stress, eating healthy foods and staying active are a few ways to keep the body in fighting shape to ward off infection.
A flu shot is your best way to avoid the flu, and it’s not too late to get one. However, you need to act fast because it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to develop in your body to protect against the flu.
If you begin to show symptoms of the flu, such as fatigue, fever, chills, body aches, coughing, and congestion, contact your primary care doctor. Antiviral medication may reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of the flu if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
If you catch the flu, stay home from work, school and errands while you are sick. Your neighbors will thank you.
Nelida Rivera is a registered nurse at the Florida Blue Center in Winter Haven where she teaches free health and wellness classes that are open to the public in addition to providing health coaching and assessments.