Health officials considered last year’s flu season mild, but they warn influenza is unpredictable and say the disease could take a toll in the 2012-13 season. Their advice: Get a flu vaccine.
The CDC recommends everyone ages 6 months and older get vaccinated each year. This year’s flu vaccine consists of one H1N1 strain from last year’s vaccine, plus two new strains. It is available as the standard shot, nasal spray, a high-dose injection for people 65 and older and a new “Fluzone Intradermal” vaccine with a much smaller needle that is injected into the skin that is recommended for adults 18 to 64 years of age.
When should you get vaccinated? CDC says as soon as the flu shot is available, so check with your doctor.
The CDC cautions that even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and then spread it to others who may fare even worse. Besides vaccination, the CDC urges everyday actions such as hand washing, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and taking antiviral flu medications if you’re at high risk for flu or develop influenza.
According to CDC, flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
If you suspect your child has the flu, follow your school’s guidelines regarding attendance. This usually means you’ll need to keep your sick child at home until at least 24 hours after the fever is gone and they no longer need medicine to keep the fever down.
While your child is sick, make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks) to make sure his or her body has the fluids it needs.
For information on how the flu spreads, check out the CDC website.