The Compact Guide to Influenza

You may have noticed or heard on the news that many people have been getting sick recently. In fact, according to a report from USA Today, in California’s Santa Barbara County, deaths from influenza in people over 65 already total more than double last year’s fatalities. A Santa Barbara public health officer reported that the current flu epidemic is the worst in a decade. Influenza, commonly known as the "flu", is a highly contagious viral illness of the respiratory system, which is normally most prevalent in the months from October to March each year. Medical experts warn the current flu season is worse than it has been for many years, with many deaths including both young and old. That’s why it is crucial to educate yourself about the flu so you can practice healthy hygiene habits and recognize it quickly if you get it. Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • sore throat
  • fever (temperature over 99 degrees)
  • coughing
  • chills
  • body aches
  • fatigue/weakness
  • runny or stuffy nose

As with other viruses, people with weakened immune systems such as seniors and the chronically ill are more susceptible to the flu and have a higher risk of dangerous complications such as pneumonia.

How to Avoid the Flu

The best defense against the flu is to avoid getting it in the first place. First, get an annual flu shot to strengthen your body's defenses. Experts recommend getting the shot in the fall just before flu season gets started, since it takes up to two weeks for the immunity to kick in. Despite this, you can get the shot anytime. In addition, ask your doctor about getting a pneumonia vaccine, which is recommended for all people over the age of 65. Pneumonia is a common, life-threatening flu complication in the elderly. In addition, practice careful hygiene habits to avoid infection. Wash your hands frequently; you can also bring hand sanitizer with you to use when a sink is unavailable. Furthermore, minimize time spent around sick people; if a household member becomes ill, maintain distance and sanitize commonly touched objects such as doorknobs and faucets frequently. Finally, try to avoid crowded public areas. When that’s impossible, consider wearing a mask to protect yourself.

What if I Get the Flu?

While many people ride out the flu without seeing a doctor, no home remedy can replace medical attention. It is highly recommend that seniors seek medical care for flu symptoms as soon as they appear, as some medications can shorten the duration of the illness if given early. For those with weakened immune systems, this can reduce your risk of deadly complications. In addition to seeing your doctor, there are several things you can do to speed your recovery. Stay at home, get plenty of bed rest, and engage in gentle relaxing activities. Many people also find that hot liquids such as chicken broth and herbal teas can soothe flu symptoms. In particular, teas made with ginger or elder can be therapeutic.

Questions and Answers:

After taking in all those facts, you might have some questions about influenza.

Q: What is the difference between influenza and the common cold?

A: Although both viral, influenza usually starts more suddenly and has more debilitating symptoms such as fever and chills.

Q: Can I get the flu from the flu shot?

A: There is no evidence that you can get the flu from the flu shot, but some people may be sensitive to vaccines. Talk to your doctor about whether vaccines are right for you.

Q: How do I know when I need to see a doctor?

A: If you are elderly or chronically ill, visit a doctor as soon as flu symptoms appear. If you develop a fever over 102 degrees or other severe symptoms such as trouble breathing or confusion, seek emergency care.

Q: Is the flu dangerous?

A: Yes, the flu is dangerous and can be deadly for vulnerable people such as the elderly or chronically ill.

Disclaimer: The articles on this website are not meant to encourage the self-management of any health or wellness issue. Nor are they meant to encourage any one type of medical treatment. Treatment or advice used by a reader may have varying results, as each individual is different. Any article reader with a health-related question, is encouraged to seek a proper consultation with a doctor or certified health provider. The articles on this website should not be used to disregard any medical or health-related advice, nor should they be the root cause for delay in seeing a doctor or a certified health provider.

The articles on this website should not be used to start the use of dietary supplements or vitamins, natural or herbal products, homeopathic medicine or other mentioned products prior to a proper consultation with a doctor or certified health provider.

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