What to know about flu season

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Flu season is the time of the year where the number of flu outbreaks is higher than usual. To help beat the virus, here is what you should know about flu season.

When it is happening and what to expect

Julie Torruellas Garcia, who has a doctorate in immunology, is an associate professor for NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography. Garcia said that the flu occurs “more towards the winter months: November, December and January.”

Knowing the difference between a flu and cold can save a patient’s time — and sometimes life — because the flu can result in more serious health complications.

According to the CDC, “the symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.”

First line of defense

One precautionary measure is getting the flu shot.

“The first tip would be to get the flu vaccine, and get it early so your body has time to prepare,” said Garcia.

The CDC recommends that certain patients should receive the flu vaccination before flu season starts because it allows the body to build up this memory and protection.

“That’s why they usually suggest that you get your flu shots before flu season starts because it takes two weeks to actually start protecting you,” said Garcia. “The Center’s for Disease Control recommendation is usually six months and older to get the vaccination. Then there are always the people that are most susceptible to getting sick, like young children, elderly and anyone that might be immunocompromised due to other illnesses.”

What about nasal spray?

In the past, if patients didn’t want to get the flu vaccination, they could opt for a nasal spray. However, the CDC is changing its recommendations.

“This year, they are not recommending the nasal spray because of issues with effectiveness. Their only recommendation is to get the shot,” Garcia said. “The vaccine is like pieces of the virus that allow our immune system to think that we have the infection. Our body builds immunity to it by making antibodies … that will just stick to [the infectious bodies] and block it from causing disease to you.”

Cover that cough

Garcia said that the main source of contamination is through aerosol transmission. Aerosol  droplets can spread through direct contact with the person who is ill, or touching things that have been contaminated.

“It’s a little tricky because this is something you would breathe in if someone is coughing or sneezing,” said Garcia. “You would hope that when people cough or sneeze, they would cover their face either with their arm or cough or sneeze into a tissue.”

Other precautionary measures

Sometimes staying healthy consists of limiting factors that weaken the immune system.

“Wash your hands, try to avoid touching your face and always cover [your face] when you cough and sneeze,” said Garcia. “If you are touching objects that maybe had the virus on them and then you are rubbing your nose, putting your fingers near your mouth or touching your eyes, then that is the way for the virus to get in as well.”

Feeling better and stopping the spread

If the flu does attack, there are options for treatment.

“There is a drug called Tamiflu, but in order for it to be effective, you pretty much have to start taking it at least within the first two days being sick,” said Garcia. “That would mean by the first day you would probably go to the doctor to try and get a prescription. It reduces the symptoms and reduces the length of the illness, but you would still be sick. It makes it a little bit easier to recover from it.”

Natural remedies also help relieve symptoms.

Garcia said, “The standard recommendation of rest, lots of fluids and just trying to prevent spreading it to other people is to stay home and try not to interact with people.”

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