By Dr. Sarah E. Laibstain
As we enter the new year, flu season can still be a concern. While this is an accepted and anticipated part of every winter, influenza is an illness that can escalate to serious complications, hospitalization and even death. While cases are typically not this severe, it’s still important to take active steps toward prevention, given the highly-contagious nature of the virus. In addition to getting vaccinated, there are several everyday measures that can be taken to ensure a healthy, flu-free start to 2019.
Studies show that annual vaccinations are the number one proven method of preventing the flu. In fact, the CDC recommends this as the first and most important step one should take. The vaccination is formulated based on the strain of virus that research predicts will be most prevalent each flu season. Getting vaccinated can reduce the severity of illness if you do become infected, resulting in less time spent away from school, work and other commitments. Young children, pregnant women and individuals 65 years and older are considered at high-risk of developing flu-related complications and are consequently the most highly-encouraged to partake in vaccination.
While getting vaccinated is important, practicing healthy habits is also a beneficial component to protecting yourself and others from the spread of flu germs. Frequent handwashing, as well as avoiding the urge to touch your eyes, nose and mouth will help decrease the chances of contamination. Other considerations to boost the immune system include getting sufficient sleep, being physically active, avoiding stress and staying hydrated. If you do become infected with the flu, stay home when possible to prevent spreading the infection. Additionally, cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing to protect those around you.
School and work quickly become breeding grounds for germs during flu season, so it’s important to stay aware. If you have children, note whether or not classrooms are routinely cleaned and provide tissues, anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizers. When it comes to the workplace, wipe down frequently-touched objects such as your phone and keyboard to avoid spreading germs.
If you do begin to feel ill, leave as soon as possible and limit contact with others until you are fever-free for at least 24 hours to prevent spreading the virus. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue. It is also possible to exhibit respiratory symptoms with no fever. Prompt antiviral treatment can mitigate severity of these symptoms and is especially effective when administered within 48 hours of infection.
Stay informed on steps you can take this year to protect yourself and the ones you love from the misfortune of catching the flu. Consider getting vaccinated, and incorporate these simple, health-conscious habits into your routine.
Dr. Sarah E. Laibstain is a general family medicine practitioner at Family Medicine Associates of Texas in Carrollton. She thoroughly enjoys improving the health and lives of individuals ranging from young children to adulthood. For more information, call 972-394-8844, or visit texasmedicine.com.