When the leaves start turning colors and kids go back to school, it's usually the beginning of the fall flu season. But unlike in the past, this year you need to protect yourself from not only the seasonal flu but another flu that's been making big headlines: H1N1 (also known as swine flu).
H1N1 is a new virus that was detected earlier this year. It is spread the same way the seasonal flu is--from coughing or sneezing from an infected person. People can also pick up the germs by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
The seasonal flu and H1N1 have the same symptoms which include fever, aches, cough, sore throat, sneezing and a runny nose. Diarrhea and vomiting are more frequently seen in H1N1 cases.
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family is to get flu vaccines, says Mary Alice Lavin, RN, chief nurse epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center. The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect you from H1N1.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that the following people receive the H1N1 vaccine:
- Pregnant women
- Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age
- Health care and emergency medical service workers
- Anyone between the ages of 6 months to 24 years
- People between the ages of 25 and 65 who have health conditions associated with higher risks of medical complications
People who should receive the seasonal flu vaccine include the following:
- Anyone between the ages of 6 months and 19 years
- Pregnant women
- People 50 years of age and older
- People of any age with chronic medical conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and asthma
- People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities
- Health care workers and people who care for young children
Lavin suggests that everyone follow the three Cs. "Clean your hands, cover your cough when you sneeze and contain your germs (or your children's) if you are ill. That means stay home from work or school." she says. "And you should stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone." Health care providers are required to stay home for 7 days.
You also can help yourself stay flu-free if you follow these tips:
- Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based product, especially after you cough or sneeze.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
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