It’s Not “Just” The Flu
Every year, millions of individuals suffer from seasonal influenza, better known as the flu. The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses that attack the throat, nose, and sometimes lungs.
For some people, the flu can be a mild illness, but for most older adults and individuals with chronic health conditions, the flu can have very serious symptoms and can even be life-threatening. The flu is more dangerous for older adults because the immune system grows weaker as people age, which leaves the body more vulnerable to infections. Other risk factors that increase the chances of getting sick from the flu include asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic kidney disease.
The most effective way to prevent catching the flu is by getting the flu vaccine, which is safe and effective. The flu season generally peaks between December and February, so it is recommended to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is offered (hint: Right Now!!) because it takes at least two weeks for the flu vaccine to start working. It’s important to get the flu vaccine every year because the vaccine is updated annually to target the specific viruses that are anticipated to spread that year. This year, there is a vaccine that protects against two strains of Influenza A and two strains of Influenza B.
The flu vaccine is easily accessible and oftentimes low cost or free with Medicare or most private health insurance plans. There are several flu vaccines available, including two types of high-dose vaccinations specifically for those who are 65 years and older. These specialized vaccines create a stronger immune response to the virus.
Other precautions to take are to regularly wash your hands, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze, and disinfect surfaces you come in contact with often. Although most of society is no longer masking regularly, during flu seasons it is appropriate for you to mask around large groups of people or if you yourself are feeling ill or immunocompromised.
Flu symptoms include fever, sore throat, runny nose, cough, vomiting, muscle pain, and headaches. If you do happen to become infected with the virus, act fast and visit your health care provider to get tested and to receive appropriate medications. Prescribed antiviral medication can risk complications from the flu and can heal you quicker if taken 48 hours after symptoms begin. Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also bring down your fever and help with flu symptoms.