When the leaves start turning colors and kids go back to school, it's usually the beginning of flu season. And that mean it's time to take steps to protect yourself and your family.
The flu virus spreads through the air, when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 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.
Flu symptoms include the following
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
Diarrhea and vomiting are more frequently seen in people with H1N1 (also known as swine flu) than in those with seasonal flu.
Don't wait to vaccinate
The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get flu vaccine, which is available by shot or nasal spray. Flu season typically peaks in January or February, but early immunization is most effective at preventing the flu. Try to get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available in your area.
Those who should get 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
If you have any of the following health issues, talk to your doctor before getting a flu vaccination:
- A severe allergy to chicken eggs
- A history of severe reaction to a flu vaccination
- A moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (don't get the vaccine until you have fully recovered)
- A history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome
An ounce of prevention ...
To help yourself stay flu-free and keep from spreading the flu if you are infected, follow these tips:
- Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based product, especially after you cough or sneeze. During flu season, keep hand sanitizer on your desk and in the glove compartment of your car. It's also a good idea to carry a travel-sized hand sanitizer in your purse or coat pocket when you're on the go.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Contain your germs (or your children's) if you are ill. That means stay home from work or school. 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.).
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth