This year's flu season has been epic. In the news, we hear about cases of influenza all over the United States and health officials are warning us of the severity of this year's strain. The flu has been particularly devastating to the older and younger generations, but anyone can be affected. Many deaths have already been reported and more are expected.
Influenza, or the flu as it's more commonly known, is a virus. It is contagious and affects the respiratory system including the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. The flu is often mistaken for a bad cold, and although the symptoms are similar, cases of the flu tend to get worse before they get better.
According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta
, flu symptoms include:
Fever or feeling feverish/chills (It's important to note, not all people have a fever with the flu.)
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Fatigue (very tired)
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in young children than in adults.
The CDC also says, "Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes."
Also, according to the CDC, "People with the flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins, some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time."
It is extremely important for those with weakened immune systems to avoid exposure to the flu virus. Severe complications can develop. These include pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia, respiratory infections, ear infections, sinus infections, asthma, congestive heart failure and worsening of any chronic medical conditions.
For those with compromised immune systems, it's extremely important to follow good hygiene measures in order to protect yourself during the ongoing flu season. In an article
on WebMD's website, Claudine Campbell, occupational therapy manager at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City says, "Monitoring your own energy level [can be] a real eye-opener."
For those with weakened immunity, it's very important to pay attention to how you're feeling. Pay particular attention to elevated temperatures or increased fatigue. By continually monitoring your health, you're being proactive.
There are a few simple things you can do that might help you avoid the flu this year.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer. (If someone wants to shake your hand, you can always explain you’re not feeling well and avoid those possible germs. They won’t be offended and will more than likely respect your decision!)
- Avoid close, face-to-face, contact with infected persons. (Wear a disposable face mask if necessary.)
- Plan ahead. (If you need to be out in public, try to avoid crowds. Planning shopping trips during off times will help you avoid the possibility of coming into contact with more germs. Many grocery stores now offer a curbside pickup. You can order your groceries online, drive to the store, and have them loaded into your car without ever having to get out of your vehicle. Kroger’s service is called Clicklist. Many large grocers offer this type of service.)
- Stay away from those who are sick. (Although this is common sense, it’s easy to forget when you want to be with friends or family.)
- Remind family members to cover their mouths and noses if they sneeze.
- Avoid stress
- Drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest.
- Take additional vitamin C.
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Talk to your doctor about vaccines and get advice on whether or not you should be immunized against the flu. (If you have breast cancer, you can also read this article for more information).
The flu season will more than likely continue for another month or two. If you’re going through active treatment for cancer or if your immune system has been compromised, try to stay away from germs as much as possible. Your health is one of your most valuable assets and it’s up to you to do whatever necessary to protect yourself.