It’s nice to give gifts to family members and friends. But there is one “gift” that is best not given to others, although it is sometimes unwittingly passed along—the flu.
Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious virus that can cause severe illness and even life-threatening complications. Flu viruses can cause high fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, and body aches. Complications may include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and aggravation of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. The flu spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks, and the virus goes into the air and other people inhale it.
Every year, between 5 and 20 percent of Americans get sick from the flu. Most recover in one to two weeks, but approximately 200,000 people end up being hospitalized for flu-related complications. Those most likely to develop flu complications are children between the ages of 6 months and 19 years of age, adults age 50 and older, women who are pregnant during flu season, individuals living in nursing homes or long-term-care facilities, people with chronic health conditions, health care workers who have direct patient contact, and care givers of children less than 6 months old.
The best way to prevent passing the flu to others is to get an annual flu shot. The flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that are expected to be the most common each year and usually becomes available in the fall. It may be given either as a shot or nasal spray, depending on the person’s age and any existing health conditions.
Good health habits are especially important during flu season, which typically lasts from about October through February. Remember to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then wash your hands often to protect against germs. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth since germs are often spread when you lay a hand on something that is contaminated with the flu virus and then touch yourself.
For more information, talk with your doctor or call 1-877-934-9355 for a free referral to a physician near you.
Information courtesy of Abrazo Central Campus, 2000 W. Bethany Home Road; www.AbrazoHealth.com.