Friday, July 15, 2016

Seasonal Flu

I would say all of us are pretty familiar with the flu, but do we really know the important details and how to prevent it?  Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by various strains of influenza viruses.  These viruses infect the nose, throat and lungs which may cause various complications while it runs its course.  The severity of the flu illness can range from mild to severe, and could even result in hospitalization or death.  The peak season in the United States for the flu is during the months of October through May.  Leaving the summer months at the wayside, in which there is generally a decreased risk of acquiring the flu.

Everyone is at risk for getting the flu, but some individuals are more prone including the elderly, young children, pregnant women and those with certain health conditions.  The individuals that are more prone to acquire the flu are also at a higher risk for more serious complications to develop.  The flu is an unpredictable illness, and its severity can vary widely from one season to the next.  Prevention of the flu is crucial and the best way to prevent it is by getting vaccinated yearly.

There are three common types of flu viruses: A, B, and C.  Type A and B are the viruses responsible for causing the annual flu epidemics.  Type C also will cause the flu, but with much less severe symptoms.  You will notice that at the local hospital if you are tested for the flu, it will be for Type A or B.  The Type A flu virus is found in both animals and humans, it is a constantly changing strain that is usually the cause of large flu epidemics.  In contrast, the Type B flu virus is found only in humans, its viruses are not classified by subtype, and Type B viruses do not cause pandemics.

Flu viruses generally spread by droplets that are expelled into the air.  These droplets are produced by the respiratory system and enter the air from those individuals that are infected with the flu when they cough, sneeze or talk.  The droplets then enter the body of those individuals nearby through the mucus membranes of their nose, eyes or mouth, making the flu very contagious.  There is a chance you could acquire the flu by touching surfaces or other objects that someone with the flu has come into contact with.  However, the chance of this is less likely than by contracting it through the air.  Following are signs and symptoms that you should be aware of that may be an indication you have acquired the flu:

ü  Fever/chills (not everyone will develop a fever)
ü  Cough, sore throat
ü  Runny or stuffy nose
ü  Muscle or body aches, headache
ü  Feeling very tired
ü  Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)

Keep in mind that you may be able to pass the flu on to others even before you recognize that you are sick.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming infectious.  Also, some individuals such as young children and those with weakened immune systems may be able to infect others for an even longer period of time.
Complications of the flu may include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of any chronic medical conditions that you may have which may include asthma or congestive heart failure.  The course of your treatment will depend on the type and severity of the flu you are diagnosed with.  Total Home Health will work closely with your provider and other members of your direct care health team, and will strictly adhere to your treatment regimen to ensure the best possible outcomes.

As mentioned above, the best way to prevent the flu is by receiving the vaccination every year.  It is recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot each year.  Outbreaks of the flu can happen as early as October, with the peak season not being until January or a little later.  In general, flu vaccinations will be readily available to administer to the public by August and September of each year, which may sound early but it really is the ideal time to get yours in order to be ready to fight the viruses off by the time flu season kicks off.  If you cannot get vaccinated until later in the flu season, you will still most likely be protected.  When you get your flu vaccination, it will take approximately two weeks for antibodies to develop in your body that will serve as your protection against the flu. 

Total Home Health has a program that will suit all your influenza needs.  Remember, the earlier you can get your vaccine, the better.   Our highly trained professionals will educate you thoroughly about the flu, along with why you should be in good overall health before you can get your flu shot.  Our ultimate goal at Total Home Health is for you to be at your most optimal level of health and function as independently as possible in your home.  We will do our best and ensure you are protected from the flu viruses year after year. 

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