How to Protect Yourself from the Flu

It’s that time of year again, and it’s all around us; the coughing and sneezing that signifies the flu is back with a vengeance. This virus rears its ugly head when the weather gets colder, typically in October or November, and peaks between December and February.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that can be mild or severe. What’s scary is the more severe cases can result in hospitalization or even death. Those 65 years and older, children under five and those with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, as well as pregnant women, are especially at high risk of developing complications from the flu. Yet, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends everyone, with the exception of infants under six months, get vaccinated annually.

This is because the flu can be passed on to others by seemingly healthy people who are not yet symptomatic as well as those who have evidence of the virus. It’s important to note that people with the flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins. Yet, some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning just one day before their symptoms develop and five to seven days after becoming sick. And others, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be contagious with the flu for an even longer period of time.

Many experts believe that flu viruses are spread mainly by tiny droplets dispersed when sick people cough, sneeze or talk. Less often, a person might get the flu by touching a surface or object that has been exposed to the virus and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.

Anyone, even the healthiest individual, can catch the flu, and serious problems from the virus can affect those of any age.

How do you know when you have the flu versus another virus or a cold?

Unlike other illnesses, the flu comes on suddenly and presents with some or all of the following symptoms:

  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • some, not all, will have a fever
  • may have diarrhea and/or vomiting

As previously mentioned, the first and most important step in preventing the flu( is to get a flu shot each year. This has been shown to reduce flu-related illnesses and the risk of serious complications. The CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions, such as staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequent handwashing. This can help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like the flu.

Because it is very difficult to distinguish the flu from other viral or bacterial respiratory illnesses based on symptoms alone, there are tests available to diagnose this virus. There also are antiviral drugs that can be used to treat the illness.

If you think you have the flu, or have not yet received your flu vaccination, the board-certified doctors at FastCare’s offices in Miami Beach and Aventura are at your service seven days a week, including holidays. No appointment is necessary.

Visit the Aventura office Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; or the Miami Beach FastCare location, open weekdays 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., weekends 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and holidays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The flu is not something to take lightly. If you haven’t been vaccinated, do so as soon as possible. Or if you’re exhibiting flu symptoms, visit a FastCare office for confirmation and treatment assistance.