Flu Prevention, Symptoms and Treatment
From Swedish Covenant Hospital
Prevention is always the best option in protecting yourself from all forms of illness, and influenza is no different. Flu season typically begins in October or November and can last as late as May. Preparing for the increase in exposure to the virus and diligence in proper hand hygiene and healthy habits throughout the entire season may keep you from falling victim to the dreaded illness.
It all begins with your primary care physician. Establishing a relationship with a doctor that knows you and your family can help you establish the wellness routine you need to avoid disease and overcome the flu.
Need a flu shot? Visit one of our Immediate Care Centers>>
Preventing the Flu
Follow a Consistent Wellness Routine to Prevent Illness
A good diet, regular exercise and other positive lifestyle changes—especially avoiding tobacco use—can help you lower your risk of contracting the flu. Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to limit the spread of germs. These are good habits to maintain year round, not just during flu season!
Related: How to properly wash your hands>>
Get to Know Your Primary Care Physician
Get to know your primary care physician before you experience any flu-like symptoms. The benefits of a good doctor-patient relationship are many, including the fact that the can help you stay well and prevent getting sick in the first place through proper vaccination, diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes.
If you do happen to catch the flu, knowing your health history will help your primary care physician better personalize your treatment, helping you get better faster.
Get an Annual Flu Vaccine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends yearly flu vaccines as the most effective method for reducing the risk of influenza transmission. Always be sure to ask your doctor about when to receive the vaccination, which is usually made widely available in October.
Populations at higher risk for medical complications attributable to severe influenza include those at extremes of age, have underlying medical problems (including endocrine, cardiovascular, renal, liver, neurological and hematologic disorders), pregnant women, HIV infection or are immunocompromised, morbid obesity, reside in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
“Influenza may result in severe morbidity and mortality which is easily preventable with simple vaccination,” said Steven Kalish, M.D., an infectious disease physician and a part of the medical staff at Swedish Covenant Hospital. “Unless contraindicated, everyone should be vaccinated—now.”
Related: What’s in a flu vaccine>>
Treating the Flu
See Your Primary Care Physician Right Away
If you start to experience flu-like symptoms—including body aches, fever and chills—make an appointment with your primary care physician right away. Many symptoms of the flu are due to the fact that your body is fighting off the virus, and are not harmful in and of themselves. Your physician can help you manage these symptoms, stop the virus from progressing and help prevent more serious complications.
Although most persons with influenza will recover without sequelae, influenza can cause serious illness and death, particularly among older adults, very young children, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic medical conditions.
Stay Home and Rest
If you do experience symptoms of the flu, it’s important that you limit contact with others to prevent the spread of the virus. When in doubt, take a sick day. Your body needs the rest, and will thank you for the time off.
Related: When to take a sick day>>
Know When the Your Symptoms are Signaling an Emergency
In most cases, the flu can be treated at home through rest and medication. That being said, always be conscious of what your body is telling you and don’t ignore symptoms of what might be a serious complication.
The flu can sometimes lead to bacterial infections such as pneumonia. If your fever is consistently 101 or 102, make an appointment with your primary care physician. Any fever over 104 warrants a trip to the Emergency Department.
To find a primary care physician, please call 773-878-6888.