Influenza, or the flu, is a virus that affects, on average, 8 percent of the US population each year. While anyone can get the flu at any time, between December and March are considered peak flu season. These colder months tend to force people to congregate indoors – perfect for spreading a highly-contagious virus.
Keep yourself and your family safe this flu season by knowing who’s most at risk for getting the flu, how you can reduce that risk and what to do if you do get it.
Who’s Most at Risk for Getting the Flu?
More than just running a fever or feeling under the weather, this highly-contagious respiratory illness can cause serious complications, like bronchitis, sinus or ear infections or pneumonia. For infants and young children or the elderly, it can be life-threatening. Other groups that are at increased risk of getting the flu and experiencing complications include:
- Children – Especially those who attend school or daycare.
- Elderly – Adults over the age of 65 are more susceptible to the flu, as well as at an increased risk for serious flu-related complications.
- Weakened Immune Systems – Battling chronic illnesses like cancer, HIV/AIDs or other autoimmune disorders make it easier for viruses like the flu to infiltrate the body.
- Pregnancy – Weakening of the immune system, particularly during the second and third trimester, puts pregnant women at an increased risk for flu-related complications.
- Smoking – Chronic smoking increases one’s risk for respiratory illnesses, including the flu.
How Can I Prevent the Flu?
The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Because the most prevalent strains of influenza virus change from season-to-season, yearly vaccines help protect you against the most severe ones this year, as well as up your immunity to others over time.
- Avoiding contact with people who are sick.
- Staying home from school, work or other public spaces when you are sick.
- Covering your mouth when coughing and nose when sneezing.
- Washing your hands often.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces at home, work or school.
- Practicing healthy habits like getting adequate sleep, staying active, managing stress, drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy diet.
What if I Have the Flu?
For most people, the flu is annoying but not life-threatening. In that case, your best option is to stay home and get lots of rest. However, if you are in a high-risk group for complications or feel very sick, contact your health care provider. The CDC recommends that antiviral treatment begin within 2 days after illness onset; because influenza is a virus, antibiotics will not help.
If flu symptoms are severe enough that you need medical attention, please visit your closest Urgent Care facility. With lower cost and shorter wait times than Emergency care, they’re better equipped to handle minor emergencies and illnesses like flu and flu-related complications.
Washington Hospital Urgent Care
2500 Mowry Ave., suite 212
Washington West Building, 2nd Floor
Fremont, CA 94538
Open daily, 8am to 8pm
Some appointments available; walk-ins are welcome.
For more information, call (510) 791-2273 or visit the Washington Hospital website.