Vaccination, good hygiene are keys to avoiding the flu
The influenza virus makes its rounds each year, causing the illness or hospitalization of more than 200,000 people in America. When coupled with other conditions, influenza can be fatal.
Flu season can last into late spring. The flu, which can be treated with antiviral medications, is spread by infected individuals and transmitted when they talk, cough, or sneeze. Basic prevention measures are important for flu protection.
"Vaccination is the single best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from getting the flu," says Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "Infants younger than 6 months and those with some pre-existing conditions can't get the vaccination themselves, so having others in the household get vaccinated makes a big difference."
Practicing good hand hygiene is another effective protection measure, says Dr. Kahn, who also is a pediatrician at Children's Medical Center. He recommends washing hands with warm water for least 15 seconds to kill germs, which can be found in hotspots such as doorknobs, keyboards, cell phones, and handshakes.
"Hand sanitizers are also a great option when hand washing isn't readily available. They can reduce the amount of bacteria and germs on your hands by up to 99 percent," he says.
Also, cover your mouth and nose with tissue or a shirt sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
The most common flu symptoms are sudden onset of fever, headaches, nausea, body aches, coughing, and sneezing. Always see a physician immediately if chest pains or breathing difficulties occur - both of these symptoms may be an indication of pneumonia.