As I approach my 42nd birthday next week, I remember far too clearly how I entered my forties, sick as a dog! I never thought to make a big deal of turning forty until days before my birthday I got a fever, then chills, the weakness, then the excruciating back pain. It. Was. Awful! My mom threw a surprise 40th for me and I attended flushed and feeling miserable, I had the flu!
My husband and I and our three children had never gotten the flu shot in our lives. When my two daughters also got the flu after me, it was time to second guess our choice. It was a rough 10 days and when we were finally healthy, we all went to the doctor for the flu shot. My husband and son also received the vaccination even though they didn’t get sick, they saw how bad it was and didn’t want to risk it.
1) Take time to get a flu vaccine every year. It’s not too late to get a flu vaccine—flu typically peaks between December and February, and as long as flu viruses are circulating, the CDC recommends vaccination.
2) Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs, here are some simple tips!
Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
Practice other good health habits.
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.
3) Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. The CDC has recommended the use of antiviral drugs as an adjunct to vaccination. They’re the only medicines that can specifically treat flu. CDC scientists have looked very carefully at the use of influenza drugs in the clinical setting, and the conclusion is clear, they work but they aren’t being used nearly enough. Quick antiviral treatment can mean the difference between a milder illness and a stay in the hospital or even death.
The flu vaccine is safe and does NOT cause the flu! The flu vaccine protects against three or four different influenza viruses, depending on which vaccine you get (trivalent or quadrivalent). While this year’s vaccine may not work as well against the drifted H3N2 viruses, it can still protect many people and prevent flu-related complications. Treatment with antivirals is recommended and works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick, but can still be beneficial when given later in the course of illness. Treatment with flu antiviral drugs can make flu illness milder and shorter and are effective across all age and risk groups.
My parents are ages 69 and 73 (and my father is diabetic) and are in the high risk category for serious illnesses deriving from the flu. My family is in constant contact with them and my children spend time with them when we travel. It’s important that I spare my parents any extra risk of getting sick by keeping my family healthy!
For more information to help you make the best decisions for your family, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm.