Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses, infecting the throat, nose, and sometimes the lungs. The virus travels from person to person through tiny droplets in the air from infectious sneezes and coughs. People catch the flu by inhaling the droplets directly, or by picking up the germs directly–such as touching a doorknob or an elevator button that may have traces of the virus–and then subsequently touching your mouth, nose or eyes. The flu symptoms will usually start by exhibiting cold-like symptoms, including but not limited to sore throat, sneezing, and a runny nose. Despite sharing symptoms, flu symptoms occur more suddenly and are more severe than a cold. Other signs of the flu include chills, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, nausea, a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing, and a fever.
How Do You Prevent the Flu and Flu Symptoms?
While there are basic preventative measures for the flu, such as washing your hands with soap or staying away from people who are sick, the most effective way to prevent the flu is to get an annual flu vaccine. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for anyone who is aged 6 months or older. Some people stray away from the vaccine because of a common misconception that the vaccine is unsafe. However, the vaccine is dead, meaning the shot gives you an inactive form of the flu. The chance of getting flu symptoms or the flu itself from the vaccine is zero. In fact, in an interview, Dr. Gregory Poland from the Mayo Clinic states that the vaccines are “among the safest and most studied areas of modern medicine.” So, rest assured, vaccines are safe and will ward off the flu! However, it is important to check with your doctor about getting a flu shot if you are allergic to eggs, as most flu shots have a little amount of egg protein in them. If you are allergic, your doctor can administer you with other vaccines that do not contain egg proteins. Please note, it usually takes about two weeks after the vaccination for the vaccination to take effect, preventing you from contracting the flu.
How Do You Prevent the Spread of the Flu and Flu Symptoms?
The best way to prevent the spread of the flu and flu symptoms is to avoid close contact with people that are sick with the flu or, if you are sick with the flu, avoid close contact with people that do not have the flu. However, we aren’t always able to do this at work, at your child’s school or daycare, or in other everyday environments. Other methods that are effective in preventing the spread of the flu and flu symptoms is to disinfect and clean surfaces thoroughly, including objects that are frequently touched or may be contaminated with the germs of someone that has the flu. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
*Reviewed and approved by Dr. Rob Lapporte
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