According to the Center for Disease Control, flu season is just beginning. Why the late start? Apparently flu season isn’t declared until there are a number of doctor-reported cases from patients testing positive from the virus, usually ten percent. The late onset is being attributed to more individuals taking precautions and getting vaccinated this year, resulting in fewer cases; however, the CDC reports flu activity being the highest in the Midwest, with St. Louis ranking higher among reported cases.
We often don’t think of the flu as a life-threatening illness; however, there are more than 300 flu-related deaths annually, with certain populations being more at risk than others.
Who’s at risk? According to Flu.gov:
• Seniors 65 years and older: As we age, our immune system weakens.
• Pregnant women: Changes in the immune system can lead to systems being compromised.
• Persons with disabilities: Limited mobility or limited ability to communicate symptoms can cause additional problems.
• Children and infants: Immune systems are still developing at this age.
Getting the flu doesn’t have to be a life sentence. There are precautions that can be taken to limit the spread of the virus and assist you in your recovery, if exposed. It will be important to be able to distinguish the common cold from flu-like symptoms, as symptoms are similar. Flu-like symptoms tend to be more severe and include high fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, or fatigue. Often times it may be necessary to seek medical attention to rule out a flu diagnosis. It’s imperative to seek medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen.
Precautions should include:
• Washing hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
• Avoiding close contact with sick people.
• Practicing good health habits. Get enough sleep, exercise, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it, being mindful to wash hands afterward.
• If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
In any event, stay encouraged. Being quarantined from friends and family during times of illness can be lonely, leading to feelings of isolation and sadness. Remember although recovery can be slow, it is temporary. In order to make the most of your recovery, elicit the help of friends and family to assist with daily chores and securing comfort items specific to you in order to limit feelings of boredom and isolation. Don’t rush your recovery. Give your body what it needs and, most important, be mindful of those you come in contact with to limit exposure.
For more information on the flu and related viruses, click here.