The Flu: How to Protect Yourself
Writer / Jane Forni, MSN, RN, CIC, Infection Preventionist at IU Health West Hospital
Every year, millions of people miss work or school because they have the flu. The flu is a very contagious, respiratory viral illness that affects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It causes mild to severe illness, hospitalization and sometimes death. The flu occurs mostly during the colder months but can occur at other times. You can get the flu multiple times each year.
Know the common flu symptoms.
Common symptoms of the flu include fever, feeling feverish/chills, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Not everyone with the flu has a fever, and some people have vomiting and diarrhea, which is more common in children than adults.
There are differences between the common cold and the flu.
The common cold and the flu share many of the same symptoms. The flu is typically worse than the common cold and symptoms appear more abruptly. You should seek medical attention for high fevers, or if you have other medical conditions that put you at increased risk for serious complications, including diabetes, asthma or congestive heart failure.
Take steps towards flu prevention.
Each year, scientists develop a new flu shot to cover the most common strains of the flu. The first step in preventing the flu is to get the most current flu vaccine. Getting a flu shot may not make you completely immune from getting sick, but it can significantly lessen the severity of your symptoms. You can also take everyday measures to limit the spread of germs. Stay out of close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, limit contact with others, especially those at increased risk of severe illness. Remember to always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, cover your coughs and sneezes, and do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. If you do get sick with the flu, antiviral medications prescribed by your health care provider may help reduce the time you are sick and may also help prevent serious flu complications.
If you are feeling any flu-like symptoms, make sure you discuss them with your health care provider immediately.