With some kids back in schools and the weather dropping steadily, flu season is just around the corner. Read on to understand the basics of the flu and what you can do to stay safe and healthy this winter.
The flu is a contagious virus that peaks in cases during December through February and can last through May. The flu is different than a cold, as it usually comes on very suddenly. It's also important to note that COVID-19 and the flu may present similar symptoms. To be sure, testing may be needed to help confirm either diagnosis.
Can you tell if you have flu symptoms? The flu can cause mild to severe illness. People who contract the flu may feel some or all of these symptoms:
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
In some cases, mostly in children, vomiting and diarrhea can also be a symptom.
The flu is so common the number of people infected each season can only be estimated. However, it's more prevalent in certain age groups. One study broke down the infection rate across age groups:
• Children ages 0 - 17 years old - 9.3%
• Adults ages 18 - 64 years old - 8.8%
• Adults ages 65 and older - 3.9%
The CDC recommends prompt treatment for people who have or are suspected to have the flu. This is especially important for those who have a high risk of serious flu complications including:
• Young children
• Adults 65 years or older
• Pregnant women
• People with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease
So what can you do to protect yourself? The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year. This year, due to COVID-19, it's more important than ever. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receives their annual flu vaccine. To keep yourself safe, you should also practice:
• Avoiding close contact with those who are sick
• Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
• Washing your hands with soap and warm water often
Stay healthy and safe this flu season!