This year’s flu season has been a particularly severe one. Hospitalization rates have been the highest in nearly a decade. The flu vaccine doesn’t seem to have helped at all, as it doesn’t protect against the H3N2 strain that has become the prevalent strain this year. Reports from people who have had the flu indicate that the effects of this year’s strain are particularly painful. So here are some tips on how to avoid the flu, and how to treat it if you end up getting it.
How to Avoid the Flu
You can’t guarantee that you won’t be exposed to the flu, unless you shut yourself in your house for the entirety of winter. Given the prevalence of flu this season you’ll probably cross paths with someone infected with the flu at work, school, church, or at a store.
1. Wash Your Hands
Basic hygiene is the best defense against all diseases. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after you’ve been out in public putting your hands all over door knobs and other surfaces that can harbor germs.
2. Don’t Touch Your Face
Especially if you haven’t washed your hands in a while, don’t touch your face. That means no rubbing your eyes, picking your nose, or fishing out bits of food from in between your teeth. That’s the quickest way to introduce the flu virus into your body.
3. Clean and Disinfect When You Can
If you can carry disinfectant wipes to wipe off door handles, shopping cart handles, etc., you might want to think about doing it. Clean your kitchen counter, bathroom sink, and toilet on a regular basis too to keep those surfaces from harboring dangerous germs.
4. Get Plenty of Sleep
Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest to keep your immune system strong. If you’re constantly tired and run down from lack of sleep, it’s far easier to succumb to illness.
5. Eat Healthy
Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet and giving your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to stay strong.
6. Limit Doctor’s Visits
Given how prevalent the flu is, try to limit visits to the doctor’s office or hospital to only those that are absolutely necessary. If you have a slight sniffle, it’s probably not the flu, but if you decide to go to the doctor or the ER to get checked out there’s a very good chance that you’ll be exposed to the flu virus from an infected person who’s there getting treated.
Even taking all the necessary precautions won’t guarantee that you won’t succumb to the flu. And this year’s strain seems to be taking an unusual toll on young, healthy people who otherwise would have been able to ward off the flu. Here are some of the symptoms that might indicate that you have the flu.
- Severe aches in muscles and joints
- Weakness or fatigue
- Fever, especially above 101F
- Sore throat and runny nose
- Diarrhea and vomiting
When to See a Doctor
- Chest or stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Severe vomiting or diarrhea, particularly if blood is present
- Dizziness or confusion
If you’re experiencing any of the severe symptoms above, you’ll want to see a doctor as soon as possible. Catching the disease early can allow it to be treated quickly and effectively and minimize the possibility of complications.
How to Treat the Flu
If you have a sore throat, you can gargle with salt water or use over the counter throat lozenges. If you have a stuffy nose, decongestants can work. For muscles aches and fever, you might want to think about using ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If you have diarrhea or vomiting, make sure to stay hydrated and replenish your fluid loss.
In most cases of the flu, you’ll be able to recover on your own. If you think you have the flu, don’t go to work or go to public places where you can infect others. Stay home, get plenty of rest, and drink plenty of fluids.