By Guest Columnist Stephanie Duguid
Flu season is an annually recurring time period characterized by the prevalence of outbreaks of influenza (flu).
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness cause by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people – elderly persons, young children, and people with certain health conditions -- are at high risk for serious flu complications.
The flu usually starts suddenly and may include these symptoms:
Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone will have a fever)
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, persons might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their mouths, eyes or possibly their noses. Some of the complications caused by flu include pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, asthma or diabetes.
You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination each fall. The CDC recommends that everyone age six months or older should receive the flu vaccination. Although the shots are not 100 percent effective in preventing infection, they are the best way to protect against the virus and related complications. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against flu virus infection for the entire season. Flu vaccines will not protect against illnesses caused by other viruses, such as the common cold.
Although the single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, good health habits can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your mouth and nose.
Wash your hands often.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
Get plenty of sleep.
Be physically active.
Manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Stephanie Duguid is Dean of Academic Instruction at Co-Lin. She is also an athletic trainer and nutrition specialist and has been teaching courses related to those two areas as well as practicing what she preaches for more than twenty years.