It’s that time of year again, so it’s time to get ready. No, we are not talking about the festive holiday season, we’re talking about flu season.
Protecting yourself and loved ones from the flu is very serious. The CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9.2 million and 60.8 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually since 2010.
People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years of age or older (the CDC estimates that between 71 percent and 85 percent of flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older).
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself and your family:
1. Get a Flu Shot: It is never too late to get your flu shot. If you have not already done so, schedule it today because it takes about two weeks after vaccination to take full effect in your body. While there are many different flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against viruses that research suggests will be most common this season. Please note that babies younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. The people who care for infants should be vaccinated instead.
2. Wash Your Hands: By washing your hands with warm soapy water, you are preventing the spread of germs to others while also protecting yourself from infection. Try to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds under warm water with soap. Remember, washing your hands with soap and water kills more germs than using hand sanitizer alone.
3. Stay Home: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Don’t shake hands or sit close to someone you know has the flu. And if you’re sick, stay home! Don’t spread your illness to others at work or school. Research shows that the flu costs the U.S. market approximately $10.4 billion in direct costs each year.
4. Be Clean: Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
5. Be Healthy: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
6. Travel Safely: When traveling, pack your car with tools and warm clothes, in case your car breaks down and you are stranded in cold temperatures. Keep a scarf, hat, gloves, and blankets in your trunk as well as jumper cables, water and other supplies.
If you have questions about flu shots or illness prevention, schedule an appointment with your provider today. Contact ACCESS to schedule an appointment at a location near you. ACCESS' team of health care professionals is ready to help and can connect you with the right resources.