The flu season lasts from mid-autumn through March, and if our area follows national trends, it’s estimated that between 40,000 and 80,000 people in the greater Dayton region alone will catch the flu sometime during the season. In Ohio, on average, up to 3,000 people die from pneumonia and/or influenza each year. While not all of these deaths can be directly attributed to the flu, many are – and possibly could have been prevented with a flu vaccine.
It’s important then, to be familiar with what the flu is, how it can be prevented, and how to treat it if you catch it.
What is the flu?
Seasonal influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a viral infection of the respiratory tract that causes fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches.
Flu is usually spread from person to person by coughing and sneezing.
This may sound similar to the common cold, but normally flu symptoms are more severe, and can be deadly. Most people who get the flu usually take between one to two weeks to recover.
How do I prevent the flu?
The best way to prevent seasonal flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) vaccine experts this year recommend that everyone 6 months and older receive flu vaccination.
The CDC recommendation goes further — while everyone should get a flu vaccine this season, it’s especially important that the following groups get vaccinated, either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications, or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:
1. Pregnant women
2. Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old (children younger than 6 months are too young to get vaccinated)
3. People 65 years of age and older
4. People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease and diabetes
5. People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
6. People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
• Household contacts and caregivers of children younger than 5 years of age, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children younger than 6 months of age — again, children younger than 6 months but are too young to get vaccinated themselves, but are at highest risk of flu-related complications
• Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu.
• Health care workers
Check with your family doctor about the best way for you and your family to receive your flu vaccinations.
If I do catch the flu, can I treat it?
If you get the flu, antiviral drugs may help treat your illness.
Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent more serious flu complications — and could mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics; are prescription medicines, and are not available over-the-counter. Again, check with your family doctor.
Special thanks to Dr. Krisell Fedrizzi for her help in preparing this special page. If you have concerns about the flu or flu-like symptoms, please call her office at (937) 855-6006 for a prompt, convenient appointment.
Or, contact another Providence primary care physician near you.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
• If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them
Go to the Red Cross’s “Be Ready — Flu Checklist”; a quick guide to preventing, recognizing and treating the flu.