Right now, the hospitalization rate for flu here in the United States is the highest on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A scary thought.
So what can you do to keep from getting sick? Dr. Jane Kim, VA’s Chief Consultant for Preventive Medicine, has a few tips for Veterans who want to protect themselves from getting the flu.
Her first piece of advice?
“Get your flu shot!” she urged. “It is not too late. Flu is still circulating around the country and will continue into spring. The flu vaccine will protect you, especially from the strains that will be circulating later in the flu season
“A flu shot will also help to ease your symptoms should you get the flu,” she added.
In addition to staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep, there’s another simple thing you can do to discourage a visit from the flu:
“Wash your hands!” Kim advised. “Touching your eyes, nose or mouth is a surefire way of introducing infectious organisms into your body. So keeping your hands clean is your best defense.”
“Stay home when you’re sick, especially when you have a fever.”
So what do you do if you’ve taken all these precautions but end up getting the flu anyway?
Don’t Mess Around
“Cover your coughs and sneezes, and stay home so you don’t spread the virus,” Kim said. “You also want to get to a doctor if you’re in a high-risk group. You’re considered high risk if you’re over 65. Women who are pregnant are at higher risk. Also,
people with an underlying health issue like HIV.”
She continued: “If you’re in a high-risk group, seek medical care right away. Your provider may prescribe an antiviral which will get you better faster and perhaps help you avoid serious complications.”
Kim said if you start feeling really, really bad, drop everything and seek medical care immediately.
“Don’t mess around,” she warned. “Sometime a secondary infection like pneumonia can jump on you while you have the flu, and that’s seriously bad news. So get the medical attention you need. Don’t procrastinate or try to tough it out.”
For more information about flu prevention, visit www.publichealth.va.gov/flu