Ready or not, fall is here – and winter is coming. And it’s bringing with it the dreaded flu season.
Though flu season usually peaks in January or February, it can start as early as October. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through what you need to know to stay healthy this winter.
What is the flu?
The flu is a respiratory illness. It is contagious and causes fever, body aches and exhaustion. The flu can also cause more serious complications, such as pneumonia and dehydration.
Some people are at a higher risk for complications from the flu. These include:
- Kids ages 6 months to 5 years
- People ages 65 and older
- People with chronic health problems
- Pregnant women
- Health care workers
- People who are morbidly obese
- People who live with those listed above
The flu vaccine
The most important preventive tool is the flu vaccine. Those who are vaccinated are 60 percent less likely to need treatment for the flu by a health care provider.
Everyone over the age of 6 months should get the flu vaccine each year. Why each year? Because flu viruses constantly change, so too does the vaccine. Last year’s vaccine does not cover you for this year.
The good news is that flu vaccines are included in your BCBSND health coverage whether you get them at your primary care doctor’s office or at a pharmacy. Check your clinic and pharmacy for dates and times flu shots are offered.
Other ways to prevent the flu
Those with the flu can infect others one day BEFORE symptoms develop and up to five days AFTER becoming sick. Children can be contagious for a week or more.
That’s why you’ll want to practice these hygiene precautions, especially during flu season:
- Wash everything – hands, towels, counters, doorknobs, etc.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Limit exposure to sick people.
- Don’t share glasses, utensils or toothbrushes.
- Get enough rest and exercise and eat well.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or in your arm.
How do you treat the flu?
If you do get the flu, stay home until 24 hours after the fever goes away.
See your primary care provider:
- If your symptoms last longer than 10 days, or if you get better and then get worse
- If you have chest pain, confusion or disorientation
- If you cough up thick, yellow-green mucus
- If you have a fever higher than 102 degrees
- If you have severe pain in the face or forehead, shaking chills, trouble breathing, shortness of breath or persistent vomiting
Here’s to a healthy, happy and flu-free winter!