According to the Centers for Disease Control, national reports of influenza-like illness, including the flu, have increased sharply over the past few weeks. In Tennessee, we are now seeing a widespread outbreak. Read on to discover how to stay healthy …
With all of this sickness going around, what are some ways you can protect yourself? Dr. Mark Browne, Covenant Health’s senior vice president and chief medical officer says “when people cough, sneeze, or talk, the flu virus can spread up to six or seven feet away.” With that in mind, he adds, “the first and best way to prevent the flu and combat the spread of the virus is to get a flu shot – and it’s not too late to do so.” The flu usually peaks in January and February, and the vaccine only takes about two weeks to become effective.
Other Tips to Prevent the Spread of Influenza
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth as you go through your day. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Influenza is a virus and does not respond to antibiotics. However, your doctor may prescribe anti-viral drugs, which can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick.
- In addition to a flu vaccination, hand washing, and other preventive actions, make sure you are eating nutritious foods, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting adequate rest.
The common cold and the flu have similar symptoms, however, colds are usually much milder. Flu symptoms include a sudden onset of:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
What if you do get sick?
As much as we are all busy, the best course of action for those who are sick is to stay home. You should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
Dr. Browne says that flu typically lasts from one to two weeks and can range from mild to life-threatening, especially among older adults or those with chronic diseases. “The flu itself is more likely to be debilitating for those with chronic diseases such as asthma, COPD, or heart disease. But it also can cause a flare-up of the chronic disease or condition, making recovery longer and more difficult,” he said.
If you are in a high-risk group for complications or if you have difficulty breathing or trouble drinking or swallowing, always make sure to call your doctor immediately. If you are having difficulty breathing beyond a normal stuffy nose, seek emergency care.