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Published on September 14, 2021

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Flu Season: Five Things You Can Do To Stay Healthy

The facts are black and white: Flu is a killer, its season is here and you do not want to be one of the more than 220,000 Americans who each year are hospitalized because of this preventable, virus-caused disease.

As flu season unfolds, remember that thousands of people die each year from the flu. Last season was unusual in that flu activity was very low due to the extra safety precautions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Influenza and pneumonia together comprise the ninth leading cause of death in our country. For some populations — the very young and very old, people with chronic disease or immune-system conditions — the threat is even more intense.

“Do it now. Get the vaccination,” said Jawad Nazir, MD, Avera Medical Group infectious disease specialist. “It’s a good idea for everyone older than 6 months. Even younger, healthier people who contract it will do better being vaccinated than they would if they skip the shot.”

Nazir provides these five main ideas for fighting back in the face of flu season:

1. Get the shot, the mist or any form of the vaccination. “That’s where prevention starts and where you’re best served if you want to help everyone avoid the flu,” he said. “If you’re not concerned with your own health, think of others. You’re not just helping you when you get the shot, you’re helping everyone.”

In addition, it's vital to get the COVID-19 vaccination. It's here to stay — just like the flu, and it's available to everyone 5 and older.

2. Wash your hands, and avoid touching your face. Hand washing is an easy way to avoid spreading the disease. The flu can live on surfaces shared by many people, so wash your hands, especially before you touch your face, especially your nose, eyes or mouth.

Another way to prevent the spread of germs and viruses is to wear a mask like we did to slow the spread of COVID-19.

3. Stay home if you’re sick. “Without symptoms, there’s really no way to know if someone has the flu,” said Nazir. “But people can transmit it before the symptoms are full-blown. They also should remain at home to avoid sharing it with their coworkers. Stay home until you have been without a fever for a full 24 hours without the use of any fever-reducing medications.”

4. Know the signs of flu. Fever, cough, body ache, dizzy feelings and runny nose, along with a general fatigue, all are signs of the flu. Kids, most commonly, can show other signs including nausea and vomiting, but they are less common signs of the illness.

Remember, flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms are similar, so it’s important to get tested to identify if you’re sick with flu, COVID-19 or another illness.

5. Find out for sure. If you or your child are having flu-like symptoms, it’s best to get tested for COVID-19 to ensure you are isolating long enough to prevent spread to others. The Delta variant is especially contagious. It’s estimated that every person who catches it spreads it to five to nine others. People age 65 and older, children and anyone who faces chronic illnesses who develops symptoms should schedule appointments with their doctor to possibly start timely treatments. Most younger, healthier people can stay home and rest, while getting plenty of fluids, and recover. 

If your symptoms are due to the flu, you should stay home for a full 24 hours after the symptoms, especially fever, have gone away.

 Talk to your health care provider about getting the flu shot, or any other vaccination, to stay up-to-date on your health. You can get a COVID-19 vaccination at the same time if you haven’t been vaccinated yet. Find a convenient location near you.

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