Are you ready for flu season? It's already upon us, and many Americans haven't properly prepared. A few simple steps can get you and your family ready to take on the flu.
The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) recently conducted a survey to see what Americans were doing to prevent influenza and stop its spread. The survey found that few people got vaccinated in advance, and even fewer contacted a health care professional for treatment.
The flu is treatable, however, and you can take steps to prevent its spread.
"The holiday season is a busy time," said Bridget Boyd, MD, a pediatrician and child safety expert at Loyola University Health System, in an interview with dailyRx News. "It is easy to be distracted by other responsibilities, but remember to take care of your health! Eat healthy, exercise and get enough sleep. The recommended time to get the flu shot is October or November. There is a lot of press about the vaccine being ineffective this year. It is true that the most prevalent strain may not be covered, but remember that ... Any protection is better than none!"
The NFID conducted its survey using an online consumer panel from Research Now. The survey data was collected between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, 2014. Quotas were in place to make sure the survey accurately reflected the total US population.
Among the survey findings:
- Experience makes a difference. People who have had the flu before are more likely to be concerned about flu season, get a flu vaccine and stay home from work if sick.
- Parents are more likely to be concerned about their children than themselves. Seven out of 10 worry about their children getting the flu. Parents are twice as likely to call a doctor when their child has the flu than if they are sick with it themselves.
- Flu season may affect certain groups more than others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that young and middle-aged adults were the most likely to get sick in 2012. Of those people hospitalized for the flu, 61 percent were aged 18 to 64.
“It is encouraging that individuals are paying more attention to flu this year," said Susan J. Rehm, MD, NFID medical director, in an NFID press release. "However, people need to know that seasonal flu is a serious public health threat every year. An estimated 5-20% of people in the U.S. get the flu each year and more than 200,000 are hospitalized yearly from seasonal flu-related complications.”
The NFID survey was published Dec. 2 on the NFID website. Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, funded the survey. Roche makes medications used to treat the flu.
About the Flu
Influenza can make you slightly sick or be a life-threatening disease. Caused by viruses, the flu tends to change slightly each year as viruses mutate or different strains become stronger.
Some people are unsure of how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu. The NFID notes that flu is more likely to fit the F.A.C.T.S. scenario — you will have Fever, Aches, Chills and Tiredness, and the symptoms will appear Suddenly. A cold or viral infection is typically less severe and you are more likely to have a runny nose.
Flu vaccinations are recommended before flu season starts to help people build immunity. But the NFID survey found that 41 percent of those surveyed didn’t get a flu vaccination until after the flu appeared in their area.
Some strategies may prevent the flu. If possible, avoid people who are sick. Wash your hands frequently. The NFID says that everyone 6 months of age or older should have a flu shot every year.
Flu vaccines are manufactured each year to contain the strains of flu viruses scientists think are most likely to circulate. The immunity from a flu vaccine is typically only good for one year.
Flu can be treated with medications. According to the NFID survey, only 32 percent of those surveyed contacted a health professional for treatment if they did get the flu, although almost twice that many said it was important to make contact immediately.
If you think you have the flu, see a health care professional. Flu medicines are most effective if taken within the first 48 hours after symptoms appear.