PINEHURST – Flu season, which typically runs from December through March, is starting to hit our area, and it’s important for you to take action to protect yourself and your loved ones.
If you haven’t received a flu shot, it’s not too late. There is still time to protect yourself from the flu.
Flu is caused by a virus that infects the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs). But unlike the common cold, which is also a respiratory infection, the flu can cause severe and potentially life-threatening complications.
Because flu viruses change from year to year, you can get the flu more than one time in your lifetime. A vaccine made to prevent one year’s flu virus may not protect against the next year’s virus, however. Even if the strain of virus remains the same, immunity to the flu virus decreases over time and can be too low to provide adequate protection after just one year. The 2010-2011 vaccine protects against the 2009 H1N1 virus in addition to two other influenza viruses.
The best way to prevent or lessen the effects of the flu is by getting a flu shot. According to the CDC, anyone 6 months and older should receive the flu vaccine.
“The flu vaccine is still available, and it’s not too late to get vaccinated and avoid getting sick,” says Elise McInnis, clinical pharmacist with FirstCarolinaCare Insurance Company. “FirstCarolinaCare has vaccine available for its members, and several doctor’s offices and pharmacies still have a supply as well.”
The most common symptoms of flu include fever, body/muscle aches, sore throat, extreme fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, dry cough and headache.
Whether you take the flu vaccine or not, it’s a good idea to take precautions that will help prevent – or at least minimize – the severity of the flu. Here is a list of those measures:
- Frequent hand-washing – Use warm soapy water. If possible, do not use “bar” soap. If you cannot wash frequently, use the antimicrobial hand-cleansing solution that does not require water. You can keep it in your work area, in your car or anywhere that washing is not available. Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth, because germs are often spread this way.
- Avoid crowds – Try to avoid crowds whenever possible, especially if you are rundown or not feeling up to par. If you get the flu, stay home to prevent others from becoming sick, too.
- Get plenty of rest – Be good to yourself, take time out of your busy schedule to rest and relax, and try to get a full night of sleep.
- Maintain a proper diet – Don’t depend on snacks to carry you through. Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Think of others – Remember to cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing.
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