Let’s avoid a springtime bout with the flu

NIHD news release

(First in a three-part series)

Signs of spring are seemingly everywhere – budding daffodils, young animals at the school farm, longer days. Yet, with the arrival of spring comes a frequent nemesis most people have written off with cold and dark winter days: Influenza, more commonly known as the flu.

The truth about flu season, according to the national Centers for Disease Control, is that there really isn’t a season, per se. Seasonal flu viruses are detected year-round in the United States. However, the most common period of flu activity is in the fall and winter.

Wait — daffodils, young animals, longer days — why are we talking about the flu, aren’t we in the clear?

Not quite yet. The CDC and local health officials see the most flu activity between October and March. They also note that in some years flu activity is strong enough to extend concern into April and, occasionally, May.

With a late wet winter and the influx of visitors to the area, we could very well see an extension of flu season. Here’s what you need to remember about the flu, courtesy of the CDC and The Northern Inyo Healthcare District:

What is the flu?

It’s a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes, the lungs. The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

Both are respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses, and because both have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and its symptoms are more intense.

Typically, colds come on gradually, and people suffering from a cold most likely do not suffer high fevers, aches, or chills. Cold sufferers are more likely to have runny or stuffy noses.

Those with the flu notice an abrupt onset of symptoms including fever (that lasts 3-4 days), aches, and possibly chills.

Colds generally do not result in serious health problems. The flu, however, can lead to pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalization.

What is the best way to prevent getting the flu?

The CDC and a large number of healthcare professionals recommend everyone over the age of six months get a flu shot every year. While there are many different flu viruses, flu shots protect against the three or four strains the research suggests will be the most common each year.

It’s important to remember that flu shots have been shown to reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work or school due to the flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. The shots have also been shown to significantly reduce a child’s risk from dying from the flu.

Data also suggests that even if someone gets sick after getting the shot, their illness may be milder, and that is something we can all agree is better for you, your family, friends, and co-workers.

Up Next: Taking a Hands-On Approach to Flu Prevention

 

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