The approach of autumn may bring thoughts of football to mind, but it’s also a time to prepare for the upcoming influenza season. Just as football teams draw up strategies in preparation to play and defeat their opponents, the same approach may be taken with Influenza by preparing a game plan of your own.
Here are some of the best strategies you can use to protect you and your family against influenza:
1. Know Your Opponent
Coaches scout their opponents before the season starts so they know what they will be facing when game day arrives. Knowing what Influenza is and how we can fight it is a great weapon for us. Many people think influenza (flu) is “stomach flu”, but influenza is a respiratory infection caused by a virus. The flu virus can cause severe illness and spreads easily from person to person. Influenza generally causes the following symptoms:
- Headache/muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Dry cough
Children may also experience nausea and vomiting. Antiviral medications are available to fight influenza, but they work best when given early in the illness.
2. Defense Wins the Game
While scoring points is critical to winning games, preventing the opponent from scoring is just as important. Score points of your own and build up a good defense against influenza by doing the following:
- Get vaccinated – The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccination. The vaccine is available as a shot and as a nasal mist.
- Wash your hands – This is the best way to prevent the spread of infections. The flu virus is spread mainly from people sick with influenza when they cough, sneeze or talk. You can also get influenza by touching surfaces like doorknobs and countertops where the flu virus has landed, and then by touching your mouth, nose, eyes.
- Avoid those who are sick and stay home from school or work if you do get sick with influenza.
3. Prepare in Advance for Your Opponent
Teams begin planning strategies against opponents well in advance of game day. Seasonal outbreaks of influenza can start in October, with peak flu activity usually seen in January or later. The CDC recommends that you get vaccinated as soon as it is available to you. The vaccine will protect you against influenza throughout the entire flu season; however, it takes about two weeks after you get the vaccine to fully develop that protection. There is no truth to concerns about getting a flu shot too early in the year … don’t wait until it is too late!
4. Teamwork is essential
Even one member of a football team who fails to do their part may result in the quarterback being sacked! Similarly, the family is best protected when each member who is able to do so, receives the flu vaccine. Certain people are at high-risk for developing complications from influenza, including:
- People with medical conditions, including asthma or other chronic lung disease, neurological disorders, heart disease, liver and kidney disorders, metabolic and endocrine disorders, blood disorders, those with weakened immune systems, and those who are morbidly obese, among others.
- Those who are under 5 years of age, and particularly those less than 2 years of age.
- Women who are pregnant.
- Adults over the age of 65.
Children less than 6 months of age are too young to be immunized, so it is very important for all other family members to be immunized in order to prevent spreading the illness to young infants.
Flu vaccines are offered at most doctor’s offices or clinics, through local health departments, at most pharmacies and at many workplaces. This vaccine locator can help you find a place near you where you may be able to get a flu shot.