What Is Influenza?
Waking up suddenly with the flu in the fall or winter seasons is not uncommon. You feel cold-like symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose, and sneezing. Sometimes it is even worse and you wake up with a fever, a headache, and tiredness with a cough. The flu and a cold are frequently confused with one another because of their similar symptoms.
Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a viral infection that attacks your nose, throat, and lungs. In most cases, the flu resolves on its own with over-the-counter medication. Depending on certain factors, influenza and its complications can be deadly. People at higher risk of developing flu complications include:
- Young children under age 5, and especially those under 6 months
- Adults older than age 65
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Pregnant women and women up to two weeks after giving birth
- People with weakened immune systems
- People who have chronic illnesses, such as asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and diabetes
- People who are obese
If you want to stay healthy to avoid any complications during the flu season, here are some ways you can stay safe:
1. You Should Get the Flu Shot.
An influenza shot is your best defense against the flu, especially if you are at a higher risk of complications. This year’s annual flu shot will offer protection against the viruses expected to be in circulation during this flu season. It takes up to two weeks to build immunity after a flu shot. It’s usually best for people to get their flu vaccine in September and October. However, you can benefit year-round from the flu shot.
Flu viruses evolve rapidly so last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses. When you get vaccinated, your immune system produces temporary antibodies to protect you from the viruses included in the vaccine. The flu shot is usually available through your healthcare provider or local pharmacies.
2. You Should Stay Isolated
If you happen to catch the flu, especially if you have a fever, do not go to work or any social settings. You obviously want to take care of yourself to avoid complications, but you should also avoid spreading germs to others. If you have a fever, do not go to work for at least 24 hours. Make sure you also keep away from people that are sick. It is equally important to avoid opportunities for other people to spread their germs to you.
3. You Should Practice Good Hygiene
You always want to practice good hygiene. You should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds regularly throughout the day. If you cannot wash your hands, use the appropriate hand sanitizer. You should not be touching your eyes, mouth, or nose, especially without washing your hands first. You also want to make sure the area around you is disinfected. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your immediate environment. If you happen to sneeze or cough, use a tissue and wash your hands immediately after. Practicing good hygiene can protect you and others from getting sick.
4. You Should Practice Good Habits
You want to be as healthy as possible in case you catch the flu. All these habits in combination with one another should help prepare your body for flu season:
- Keeping your body hydrated is important. The amount of water each person should drink varies so you should check with your doctor if you are not sure about the right amount for you.
- You also want to eat nutritious foods to give your body strength.
- Managing your stress is important to avoid weakening your immune system.
- Remember to stay active.
- Get plenty of sleep.
When Should You See A Doctor?
Most cases of flu resolve on their own. For patients who are at high risk of flu-related complications or who have a severe case of flu, there’s a greater chance that the flu might lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and, rarely, hospitalization or death. If you have any ear, nose, and throat complications, the doctors at Anne Arundel ENT are ready to help you. Call and make an appointment today at 410-573-9191.