As the leaves change colors and the weather gets colder, many people are gearing up for the scenic fall season. While Thanksgiving gatherings and Christmas presents are at the top of your to-do list, preparing for flu season should also be a priority. It's that time of year again when the influenza virus becomes a common ailment in schools, businesses, and more. Seasonal flu symptoms can make it hard to continue your day-to-day activities and could lead to further complications for some. At Epic Medical, we care about your family's health, so we've outlined everything you need to know about the flu and keeping your family safe during this time.
What Is The Flu Virus?
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Influenza viruses are classified into three types, A, B, and C. Type A viruses are the most common and can cause severe illness in people of all ages. The flu works by infecting the respiratory tract, which includes the nose, throat, and lungs. The virus is spread through contact with respiratory secretions, such as saliva, mucus, or blood, from an infected person.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of The Flu?
The flu, or influenza, is a virus that infects the respiratory system, including the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu is highly contagious and can cause severe illness in those with a weakened immune system. The most common symptoms of the flu include:
- Sore throat.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Body aches or muscle aches.
- Runny nose or stuffy nose.
Anyone who experiences symptoms of the flu should see a doctor as soon as possible, as early diagnosis and treatment are important for preventing serious complications.
How Can I Prevent Catching The Flu?
The influenza vaccine helps to protect against the most common strains of the virus, making it less likely that you will become sick if exposed to the virus.
Annual vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older, but is especially important for people in a high-risk group like:
- Children younger than 5 years old.
- Older adults, aged 65 years and older.
- Pregnant women (any stage of pregnancy).
- People with certain health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or chronic lung disease.
- People who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from influenza
While catching the flu can sound scary, there are many things you can do to prevent the spread of the flu. Some tips you can keep in mind are:
- Keep good hygiene - Good hygiene habits can help prevent the spread of flu viruses. Wash your hands often with soap and water, and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated.
- Stay home - If you have the flu, stay home from work or school to avoid infecting others.
- Avoid spreading germs - Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve instead of your hands. And be sure to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing!
- Don't touch your face - You should avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unclean hands, as that’s how viruses spread.
If you have known risk factors for developing complications, you should be especially diligent about taking steps to prevent the flu. Be sure to talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot and following other prevention measures.
How Is The Flu Treated?
The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and sometimes people recover without treatment. However, people with the flu often feel much worse than people with a cold, and the illness can be serious enough to require hospitalization. Treatment for the flu typically involves rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms.
People who are at high risk for complications from the flu may also be treated with antiviral medicines. Antiviral drugs are prescription medications (pills, liquids, or an inhaled powder) that fight against the flu by keeping influenza viruses from reproducing in your body. Those at risk should talk with their healthcare provider about whether they should get an antiviral drug if they get sick with the flu.
The incubation period for the flu is usually two to three days, which means that people can be contagious for up to a week after they become sick. As a result, it's important to stay home from work or school if you have the flu, so you don't spread the virus to others.
If you have come down with the flu, let the providers at Epic Medical help. Our family practice is proud to provide preventive care as well as treatment for illness. Whether you need to get your fall flu shot or need relief from flu symptoms, the care providers at Epic Medical will work to keep you healthy all year long.
Epic Medical is Fox Chapel’s premier comprehensive medical provider. Our family medicine practice features concierge medicine, sports medicine, and physical therapy services. We provide one-on-one, personalized care to all of our patients. If you’re ready to receive comprehensive medical care from physicians who treat you like family, schedule your first appointment with Epic Medical today.