Flu season is coming up, and KentuckyOne Health is encouraging communities to prepare early and protect themselves against this potentially fatal illness. According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, 325 people in Kentucky died during the 2017-18 flu season, including five children.
“In our area, flu season begins around October and can last until May,” said Peter Ko, MD, KentuckyOne Primary Care Associates. “To prepare for flu season, it’s important to get vaccinated early, and to practice good health habits to keep your immune system working properly.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40 and 60 percent. While there is a seasonal flu shot that helps protect against viruses that health officials believe will be most common during flu season, there are also different varieties of the flu vaccine, so it’s important to speak to your physician to find out which one is right for you.
Anyone 6-months-old and up should receive a flu vaccine, which causes antibodies to develop in your body that help protect it from infection. Since most flu shots and nasal spray vaccines include a small amount of egg protein, you should tell your doctor if you have an egg allergy.
In addition to being vaccinated, there are several important steps to help prevent the spread of the flu and other illnesses, including:
- Washing your hands with antibacterial soap and warm water frequently
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, which spreads germs easily
- Avoiding close contact with sick people when possible
- Staying healthy – get plenty of rest and exercise, drink lots of fluids and eat well
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
Symptoms of the flu often resemble that of a common cold, including sneezing and congestion. Flu symptoms come on suddenly, however, and also include fever, severe aches in muscles and joints, weakness or extreme fatigue, a sore throat or runny nose, flushed skin and watery eyes. Those with severe symptoms may experience confusion, severe vomiting, sudden dizziness, shortness of breath, or pain and pressure in the chest or stomach. Those presenting flu symptoms should contact their physician immediately.
If you are diagnosed with the flu, it’s important to get ample rest, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid contact with others. In severe cases, antiviral drugs may be prescribed by a physician to help shorten the length of your illness. The flu vaccine will not be able to treat the illness once it is present.
If you are exposed to a person with the flu, antiviral drugs can also help prevent you from getting sick. Talk to your primary care provider if you think you have been exposed to the flu.
To learn more about flu vaccines and other ways to prevent illness, visit www.kentuckyonehealth.org/