Flu Prevention: What you Need to Know

Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist

Flu Prevention: What you Need to Know

As summer winds down and we settle back into a fall routine, the seasonal shift is a good time to revisit awareness around flu prevention. Flu season can occur as early as October and as late as May. Supplementally Speaking has the latest on how to help keep you and yours healthy and flu-free this fall.

Flu shot stats

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 59.3 percent of children and 43.6 percent of adults in the United States were vaccinated for the flu in the 2014-2015 season. Typically, the vaccine protects against the three to four strains of flu researchers believe will be most common. In most years, more than one strain circulates, and vaccination proponents believe high vaccination numbers lead to maximum protection. The CDC says the shot:

  • Is safe for everyone over 6 months’ old,
  • Does not cause the flu or flu symptoms,
  • Must be received annually in order to provide protection, and
  • Needs about two weeks to become effective.

Each year the CDC conducts studies on how well the flu vaccine prevented illness, and they’ve determined that it typically decreases the number of flu cases by 50-60 percent among all populations.  Because no vaccine is 100% effective, some vaccinated individuals may still contract the flu. The good news is there is evidence to suggest that people who get the vaccine but do contract the illness tend to experience less severe symptoms.

Trying to avoid expensive hospital stays?  A study conducted by the CDC during the 2011-2012 flu season showed that the vaccine was associated with a 77% reduction for flu-related hospitalizations among people aged 50 and older.

Flu prevention tips

Many activities can help reduce your risk of contracting the flu and other illnesses this season. Most importantly, avoid spending time with people who are ill and if you feel sick, prevent the spread of illness by remaining home for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides, without the use of fever-reducing medications. Practice these tips at home to maximize protection:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with the crook of your elbow or shoulder. If you use a tissue, be sure to toss it in the trash right away.
  • Increase your frequency of regular, soap-and-water handwashing. Keep a small bottle of alcohol-based hand cleaner in your purse or bag for when you don’t have handwashing access.
  • Reduce the spread of germs by limiting how often your touch your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • For high germ traffic areas, like doorknobs and handles, consider cleaning more often during flu season.
  • Maintain your overall health to keep your immune system strong: get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat healthy foods, and build in time every day to enjoy an activity that reduces your stress.

Still sick?

Even the best prevention can sometimes miss the mark. Symptoms of flu may range from mild to severe and can often mimic those of other colds and viruses. Lookout for the most common symptoms: fever or chills, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches, headaches and fatigue. In contrast the gradual onset of cold symptoms, flu symptoms typically appear very abruptly.

Most flu sufferers will feel better after a few days, but sometimes complications can occur. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor with concerns. Seek care immediately for:

  • Anyone who experiences troubled or fast breathing, pain or pressure in chest, confusion or extreme lethargy.
  • Anyone who shows signs of dehydration, such as tearless crying or decreased urination.
  • Children who have trouble waking up, are less interactive or have a fever with a rash.

References:

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