It’s one of the best times of the year – the holidays are approaching and there are plenty of fun activities on the calendar. But it’s also the beginning of flu season, which can quickly derail the best of plans, keep you out of work or school for days on end, and in severe cases, be a life-threatening condition.
The exact start of flu season can vary from year to year. It typically begins in October and peaks in February before trailing off in the spring. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 8% of Americans contract the flu each year – and thousands die from the flu and its complications. Although the CDC doesn’t make specific predictions about the severity of any one flu season, this year’s Australian flu season was particularly brutal, with more than three times the number of people contracting the flu compared with 2018. It could offer a glimpse of what might be in store for the U.S. as this flu season begins.
What is the flu?The flu is more than just a cold or a fever. It’s a contagious respiratory illness that infects the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. Every flu virus is different, and it also affects people differently. Flu is caused by the influenza virus and can cause mild to severe illness, sometimes resulting in death. Flu symptoms come on rapidly and include some or all of these symptoms:
• Fever or feeling feverish
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
• Weakness or fatigue
• Although more common in children, the flu sometimes also includes vomiting and diarrhea
Protect Yourself and Your Family Against the Flu
Experts agree – if there’s one thing you can do to prevent the flu, it’s get a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control recommends an annual flu shot for everyone six months and older. It’s been shown to reduce the risk of flu-related illnesses, hospitalization and even the risk for flu-related death in children. If you’re at high risk for developing flu-related complications – like adults 65 and over, pregnant women, young children and those with neurologic conditions, those with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or people with compromised immune systems from HIV/AIDS or cancer treatment – it’s even more important that you get the flu shot.
A person shouldn’t get a flu shot if they are younger than 6 months of age or if they have life-threatening allergies to any component of the flu vaccine.
Wash Your Hands the Right Way – Right Away!
Another way to fight back against colds and the flu is routine hand washing. It’s the very best way to keep you from getting sick and to stop the spread of germs by removing bacteria and viruses before they can enter your body or spread to others. Many illnesses begin when you come in contact with a child’s excreta, after using the toilet, touching other people’s hands or coming into contact with contaminated surfaces.
It’s important to wash your hands:
• after using the bathroom
• before cooking or eating
• after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
• after touching animals, even family pets
• after cleaning the house, especially toilets and sinks
• before and after visiting or taking care of someone who is sick
Hand Washing How-To
Follow this proper hand washing technique recommended by the World Health Organization. Hand washing should take about one minute from start to finish. Use a timer or count from 1-10 for each of the following steps.
1. Wet hands with water and apply enough soap to cover the entire surfaces of the hands. Let the water run smoothly to avoid touching the tap later on.
2. Rub hands palm to palm to obtain a good quantity of foam, then rub right hand over left hand with interlaced fingers and vice versa.
3. Rub hands again palm to palm with fingers interlaced.
4. Rub your left thumb rotationally into your right palm. Repeat with the right thumb.
5. Rinse hands thoroughly with running water.
6. Dry hands thoroughly with a single use towel. If the tap is not single use operated, use the towel to turn off the tap.
Your hands are now clean and safe!