Don’t look now, but here comes the flu. According to several media reports, this is a bad year for influenza. All across the country, the flu is hitting hard, and it seems that Idaho is now among the 47 states reporting that the flu is widespread. Fortunately, flu levels in our state have not reached “epidemic” status. Idaho has had eight reported deaths due to the flu this season, and that number is about average for our state. However, flu season isn’t close to being over. It’s generally accepted that flu season starts on October 1 and ends the following May 1, with the peak coming in January or February. Part of the current problem is that the flu started showing up a little earlier this year, and that means more cases and more strains circulating for longer periods of time.
According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Symptoms of the flu include a fever above 100, or feverish chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, fatigue, and headaches. Some people also experience vomiting or diarrhea, although these symptoms are more common in children. Complications include ear and sinus infections, pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of chronic health conditions.
Of the five flu-related deaths Idaho had last year, all but one were in individuals age 50 and over. The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems have the greatest risks for illnesses such as influenza, so if you’re in that category, or have parents and relatives who are, be sure you’re taking precautions.
Two of the best ways to avoid illness are to wash your hands thoroughly, and to avoid contact with those who are already sick. You can still get a flu shot, too. If needles bother you, you can get a dose of nasal spray instead of a shot.
If you’ve got symptoms but are planning to go into work or school, do yourself and everyone else a favor by following this simple advice: Don’t. People with the flu may be contagious from one day before they begin experiencing symptoms to five to seven days afterward. So don’t risk infecting someone else, who can then infect others, and so on. The best thing to do when you’ve got the flu is to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take appropriate medication for your particular symptoms, such as coughing, sore throat, congestion, and body aches. The Boise Healthy Living Examiner hasn’t had the flu in over 10 years, but she swears by green tea and homemade chicken soup, along with plenty of rest and water, a daily multivitamin, and diligent hand washing. It certainly couldn’t hurt.
Talk it up:
Have you had the flu this season?
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