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Healthy You

Flu Season: Protecting Your Family from the Bug

Sunday, January 14, 2018 9:59 AM

Every flu season is different but there’s one thing you can count on: there will be one. Flu season in the U.S. can begin as early as October and continue into late May. 

This flu season has been particularly bad, partially due to the dominant H3N2 strain that is circulating. Flu seasons dominated by this strain typically result in more severe disease and hospitalizations, especially among the very young and elderly. In past seasons, it is also the strain that the vaccine has lower effectiveness. You may have seen reports that this year’s flu shot may only be effective for 10 percent of the population. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that this year’s vaccine may have been mismatched for the strains that are spreading this year. But doctors still say you should get the vaccine if you haven’t yet done so. 

PreventingTheFlu

Perhaps you’ve already noticed an uptick in coughing and sneezing on the train, in the office or at school. Curtis Mann, MD, Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares some top tips for keeping the flu from catching up with you and the rest of your family this season:

  • Vaccinate! The annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against and prevent the spread of  the flu. Everyone over the age of six months can and should be vaccinated against the flu each year, especially children under five and people over 65 because they are at high risk for serious flu-related complications. 
  • Wash your hands. You, but especially your hands, come into contact with millions of germs and bacteria every single day. You can pick them up from surfaces, computer keyboards and the shake of a hand. Regular handwashing is one of the very best ways to avoid spreading illness and getting sick. Washing your hands frequently throughout the day can’t get rid of everything but it prevents the build-up of germs. It only takes a little water, some soap and the ABCs—don’t stop washing until you get to Z.
  • Remember your devices. One of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs, especially during flu season, is to keep surfaces clean. Countertops and door handles are obvious hotspots but when was the last time you disinfected your phone or tablet? Phones and tablets go everywhere you go, but unlike hands, they aren’t washed after every trip to the bathroom and then they spend the majority of their time near your hands, nose and mouth. Studies show that phones and tablets are likely to carry many of the same contaminants in the same numbers as the door handle of a bathroom.  Wipe down the screens and bodies of your gadgets regularly with a non-alcohol based cleaner. 
  • Be healthy to stay healthy. The key to avoiding illness is stay healthy on a day-to-day basis. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep, stay active with exercise, make sure you are managing your stress levels and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet whenever possible. 
  • See your doctor. If you think you were exposed to someone with the flu, anti-viral drugs, which are 70-90% effective, can help prevent you from developing the flu. 
  • And a friendly reminder. You can't get the flu from the flu shot or nasal spray, so vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!

Do you make sure to get the flu vaccine every year?