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How to Outsmart Seasonal Flu

How to Outsmart Seasonal Flu

With flu season soon to be in full swing and potentially stretching into May of next year, ATRIO Health Plans is working to increase everyone’s flu IQ so we all can outsmart this annual, uninvited visitor.

The seasonal flu – with symptoms including fever, sore throat, body ache, nasal congestion, stuffy nose, tiredness, and headache – can be more than just uncomfortable. It can be deadly. Not only does the flu land more than 200,000 Americans in the hospital each year, but it also claims thousands of lives annually.

On the flip side, the flu vaccine is credited with preventing about 67,000 hospitalizations last season, and – from 2005 through 2014 (the most recent statistics available) flu shots are said to have prevented over 40,000 deaths.

Which leads us to step one…

Get Vaccinated

There’s no question that getting the seasonal flu vaccine is the single, most effective means of avoiding influenza. In fact, a recent study concluded that the vaccine prevented some 67,000 flu-caused hospitalizations during the 2014 to 2015 influenza period. Additionally, although it’s possible to contract the flu despite having received the vaccine, flu symptoms will be measurably less severe than had you not received the vaccination.

So, specifically who should be sure to get a flu shot? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Everyone who is at least 6 months old should get a flu vaccine this season.
  • Getting vaccinated is especially important for those who are at high risk of developing serious complications—such as pneumonia—if they contract the flu. High-risk groups include:
    • People with asthma, diabetes, or chronic lung disease.
    • Pregnant women.
    • Those ages 65 and older; further, those in this group are advised to receive the high-dose flu shot, as it’s been proven to be more effective for adults in this age category.
    • Individuals who live with or care for others who are in a high-risk group.

Last year, the flu vaccine was available as an injection or in the form of a nasal spray. Because the nasal spray proved largely ineffective, it won’t be offered for the 2016–2017 flu season.

It’s equally important to know who should not receive a flu vaccine without first consulting their healthcare provider. This includes those who:

  • Are allergic to chicken eggs;
  • Have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination;
  • Are younger than 6-months old;
  • Currently have a moderate-to-serious illness accompanied by a fever;
  • Have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome that occurred after receiving the vaccine and who are not in a high-risk group.

An Ounce of Prevention

While getting a flu shot is the first and best line of defense, these steps also are recommended:

  • If someone has the flu, avoid contact, as that person is contagious for up to seven days after getting sick. Similarly, if you’re the flu sufferer, limit your contact with others as much as possible. Additionally, you shouldn’t return to work or otherwise be in public until you’ve been fever-free – without the aid of fever-reducing medicine – for 24 hours.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then discard the tissue.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as this is a prime means for germs to migrate and morph into the flu.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/us_flu-related_deaths.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/vaccinations.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm