In an effort to keep our families healthy, we’ve put together some information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help you through this flu season.
All of the continental United States has widespread influenza activity. The CDC expects that flu activity will continue to be elevated for many weeks to come.
Influenza A (H3N2) viruses have been most common so far this season. H3N2-predominant seasons have tended to be more severe. However, other flu viruses are circulating too, contributing to serious illnesses. The Influenza A (H1N1) virus that caused a pandemic in 2009 is also circulating this flu season.
1. What are the symptoms of flu?
Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People with the flu may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than in adults
*Not everyone with the flu will have a fever
2. What do I do if I get sick?
If you get flu symptoms, in most cases you should stay home and avoid contact with other people, except to get medical care.
Speak with your physician about antiviral drugs. The CDC recommends that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and are at high risk of serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition.
3. Is it too late to get a flu shot?
No! As long as flu viruses are still circulating, it is not too late to get a flu shot. Flu vaccination is the best way to prevent flu illness and serious flu complications, including those that can result in hospitalization. Unfortunately, flu vaccines don’t work as well against H3N2 viruses, which means that some people who got vaccinated will still get sick; however, there are some data to suggest that flu vaccination may make illness milder. Flu vaccines usually work better against H1N1 viruses, which is another good reason to get vaccinated, since H1N1 is circulating too.
4. Why should I get a flu shot?
In addition to protecting yourself, getting vaccinated also protects people around you, including people who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions.
5. What else can I do to protect myself from flu?
Definitely try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you do get sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing drugs (unless you need medical care or other necessities).
Other tips for stopping the spread of germs:
- Make sure you cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve or with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way!
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
6. If you have the following emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency room:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with rash
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
- Being unable to eat
- Has trouble breathing
- Has no tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough