How to Stay Healthy During Flu Season
Each year, between 5 and 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts an influenza virus. Even more concerning, over 200,000 of these people are hospitalized due to flu-related complications. Flu seasons can be wildly unpredictable and severe. For this reason, it's important to take steps to reduce your risk of contracting this highly infectious disease.
Practical Prevention Strategies
Contrary to popular belief, supplements and home remedies won't protect you from the flu. While it's generally a great idea to eat nutrient-rich foods that support your immune system, no amount of vitamin C can keep the influenza virus from spreading throughout your body. That said, you can protect yourself with the following smart, effective anti-influenza tactics:
The most effective way to prevent the flu is by getting an annual flu shot. It's especially important for high-risk individuals like young children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions to receive annual flu shots. While they don't protect against every strain of the flu, seasonal vaccines do protect you from the most common varieties.
Wash Your Hands
It may sound simple, but soap and water can save you from days of agony related to a flu infection. That said, to completely eliminate virus particles from your skin, you need to thoroughly scrub your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds—especially after being in public places or touching surfaces that may harbor germs. Try singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice before stopping, and be sure to get in between your fingers and under your fingernails.
Use Hand Sanitizer
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer will kill influenza germs. This is particularly useful if you're shaking hands with others or touching community items without access to a sink. Try carrying a pocket-size bottle of sanitizer with you during the peak of flu season if you don't think you'll have opportunities to wash your hands.
Avoid Sick People
This isn't always as easy as it sounds, especially when the sick person lives in your home. Still, you can reduce your risk of contracting the flu by being proactive. Make sure to sanitize your hands after any and every interaction. If you're caring for a sick child or a loved one, disinfect commonly used items, such as doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, toilets, and refrigerator handles.
Don’t Touch Your Face
It's common for people to contract the flu by touching their mouth, nose, or eyes after coming into contact with a tainted surface. Many people don't realize how often they touch their faces out of habit or to address an itch. Try to be mindful of your hands to reduce the chances of accidentally infecting yourself.
Signs & Symptoms of the Flu
Recognizing the flu's early signs can help you take action promptly, leading toward a more speedy recovery. If you notice any combination of the following symptoms, head toward your nearest urgent care center as soon as possible for treatment:
- Fever or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Flu Risk Factors
Certain factors can increase your risk of contracting the flu. Children, adults over 65, and those who are immunocompromised have a higher risk of complications than healthy adults. Chronic illnesses such as asthma or diabetes can also make you more susceptible to the flu. If you’re pregnant, you’ll want to take extra precautions during flu season to ensure you do not catch this highly contagious virus.
When to Seek Professional Care
If you experience severe flu symptoms or are in a high-risk group, you may want to consider visiting your nearest urgent care center for a flu test and treatment. You’ll also want to seek emergency care if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Persistent vomiting
Turn to the Pros Serving Residents Throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts & New York
Don’t wait too long to consult a medical professional once you begin experiencing flu symptoms; after all, antiviral medications only work if you start them within 48 hours of symptom onset. For quick, efficient care, turn to the trained medical staff at PhysicianOne Urgent Care. We accept walk-ins and have an online booking portal where you may reserve your spot in line ahead of time. Plus, we offer convenient, 24/7 integrated telehealth services so you can speak to a provider from the comfort of your own home. Our locations are open 365 days per year with extended hours, and we accept most major health insurance plans.