According to the CDC website, influenza activity on average starts in October, peaks between December and February, and usually is completed by May. The CDC states the best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine. They recommend anyone age six months or older that has no contraindications be vaccinated against the flu. The flu vaccine does not always prevent you from getting the flu, but it can prevent you from becoming severely ill if you do contract this virus. Some other important ways to prevent the flu are to wash your hands often with soap and water, use alcohol hand rubs, and avoid people that you know are sick (www.uptodate.com).
One of the most common questions health care providers get asked this time of year is “How do I know if I have the flu?”. Some common symptoms of the flu are fever, muscle or body aches, chills, fatigue (tiredness), cough, and headache. Sometimes you may have a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and sometimes vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children than adults). Usually the flu symptoms come on suddenly, as compared to the common cold where symptoms develop gradually over time (www.cdc.gov).
If you think you have the flu, make sure you stay home, drink plenty of fluids (water, Gatorade, Powerade, Pedialyte), and rest. Do not go to work or school until you are fever free for at least 24 hours without taking any fever reducers such as Tylenol or Motrin. Most of the time, you will get better within 1 to 2 weeks (www.cdc.gov). The cough is usually the last symptom to go away and could last up to three weeks. Contact your healthcare provider if you are having trouble breathing or are short of breath, feel pain or pressure in your chest or belly, feel confused, get suddenly dizzy, or have severe vomiting (www.uptodate.com). You will also want to see your healthcare provider if your symptoms improve, but then you get sick again with a fever or cough.
For more information on the flu or the flu vaccine, you can go to the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.