It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter. Here is what you should know this season, including information on how to protect yourself and your family against flu by getting a flu vaccine.
How Flu Spreads
Person to Person
People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
When Flu Spreads
People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children and some people with weakened immune systems may pass the virus for longer than 7 days.
Symptoms can begin about 2 days (but can range from 1 to 4 days) after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others.
Period of Contagiousness
You may be able to pass on flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu
The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like avoiding people who are sick, covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like flu. There also are flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent flu.
The tips and resources below will help you learn about actions you can take to protect yourself and others from flu and help stop the spread of germs.
Preventing Flu at Work and School
Learn more about preventing the flu, common questions and answers, and poster materials for schools: Resources for Schools, Childcare Providers and Parents
Learn more about COVID-19 planning and guidance for promoting safe and healthy learning environments for schools and childcare programs.
At-Home Treatments For The Flu
Heading into the 2020 flu season, it’s essential to be prepared for what lies ahead. Statistically speaking, between 5% and 20% of people in the U.S get the flu each year, with around 200,000 hospitalizations stemming from the disease. Learn more about how to prevent the flu in 2020.
Heading into the 2020 flu season, it’s essential to be prepared for what lies ahead. Statistically speaking, between 5% and 20% of people in the U.S get the flu each year, with around 200,000 hospitalizations stemming from the disease.
Because it’s a viral infection, there’s no formal cure besides doing whatever you can to help your immune system work through it. The good news is that it’s possible to put together some treatments for the flu at home. Here are some of the most popular and effective remedies.
What Increases Flu Risk?
Before getting into the specific treatments, certain members of the population are more likely to get the flu than others. Along with that, these at-risk individuals may have more health complications that result from the flu. Because of this, the following groups (and/or their guardians) may want to prioritize getting a flu vaccine earlier in the season, along with taking special precautions to avoid getting sick:
In the case of those with immune system issues, note that this isn’t just autoimmune diseases that apply. Dealing with problems like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or even treatment like chemotherapy takes a toll on your immune system.
As a final note, even if none of these categories apply to you, you may still want to be wary. Any densely populated area with lots of opportunities for close intrapersonal contact carries a higher flu risk. This includes offices, college dorms, public transportation, schools, or childcare facilities. If you know you’re going to spend time in high-traffic places during flu season, you’ll want to make sure you watch what surfaces you come into contact with, and strongly consider getting your flu vaccine.
Treatments At Home
We should preface this discussion by saying that these treatments make for a great first line of defense. Depending on the nature of your illness or other medical conditions, using these treatments may not be enough. As a result, you want to make sure you see a doctor if you go through these treatments for a couple of days and see no change, or if your condition worsens. Better to be safe than have your symptoms progress. Here’s where you can find medical providers near you: https://answers.healthcareassociates.com/?query=providers+near+me.
With that said, let’s dive into some of the home treatment options you have for the flu:
Rest: It may be frustrating, but one of the best ways to fight the flu is by doing nothing. Your body’s immune system requires time and energy to fight off viruses, and the time you spend on work or household tasks is taking away from the healing process. As a result, don’t be afraid to take off from work or school the moment that you detect flu-like symptoms. Not only are you doing yourself a favor, but you are also helping those around you. At this point, people are highly contagious, and you could end up inadvertently infecting those around you.
Liquids: The flu is a respiratory infection, meaning that the body creates thick mucus as a part of the immune process. Getting a regular source of fluid not only ensures you don’t get dehydrated, but it also helps thin out the mucus and clears your airways. One thing to note here is that you’re not limited when it comes to liquids. Soups, juice, water, and tea are all excellent options.
Over-the-counter medication: There’s no cure for the flu, but you can treat some of the symptoms while you rest. Over-the-counter options can help you find relief from heavy coughing, fevers, as well as the aches and pains that generally come with the flu.
Immune-boosting nutrients: As we’ve been discussing, your immune system is the primary tool that’s going to get you over your flu infection ultimately. As a result, going into 2020, it may not be a bad idea to try and take the nutritional approach to build your immune system. There are a few ways you can go about this, but some of the most important nutrients include:
If you find yourself frequently getting sick at this time of year, it may be a good idea to reach out to your doctor and have a blood test done to see if you have any nutritional deficiencies. They can either recommend some dietary changes or supplements to improve your levels of said nutrients if this is the case.
Taking Another Step
At-home treatments can do a decent job of helping ensure that your flu-like symptoms don’t progress any further. However, you want to make sure that you have proper medical professionals in mind to reach if you find your symptoms are not improving, both for further treatment as well as advice.
While seasonal influenza (flu) viruses are detected year-round in the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May.
The figure below shows peak flu activity in the United States by month for the 1982-1983 through 2017-2018 flu seasons. The “peak month of flu activity” is the month with the highest percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza virus infection during that influenza season. During this 36-year period, flu activity most often peaked in February (15 seasons), followed by December (7 seasons), January (6 seasons) and March (6 seasons).
When is the flu season in the United States?
In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. While influenza viruses circulate year-round, most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, but activity can last as late as May. The overall health impact (e.g., infections, hospitalizations, and deaths) of a flu season varies from season to season. CDC collects, compiles, and analyzes information on influenza activity year-round in the United States and produces FluView, a weekly surveillance report, and FluView Interactive, which allows for more in-depth exploration of influenza surveillance data. The Weekly U.S. Influenza Summary Update is updated each week from October through May.
How does CDC monitor the progress of the flu season?
The overall health impact (e.g., infections, hospitalizations, and deaths) of a flu season varies from season to season. CDC collects, compiles, and analyzes information on influenza activity year-round in the United States and produces FluView, a weekly surveillance report, and FluView Interactive, which allows for more in-depth exploration of influenza surveillance data. The Weekly U.S. Influenza Summary Update is updated each week from October through May. The U.S. influenza surveillance system is a collaborative effort between CDC and its many partners in state and local health departments, public health and clinical laboratories, vital statistics offices, health care providers, and clinics and emergency departments. Information in five categories is collected from eight different data sources that allow CDC to:
These surveillance components allow CDC to determine when and where influenza activity is occurring, determine what types of influenza viruses are circulating, detect changes in the influenza viruses collected and analyzed, track patterns of influenza-related illness, and measure the impact of influenza in the United States. All influenza activity reporting by states, laboratories, and health care providers is voluntary. For more information about CDC’s influenza surveillance activities, see the Overview of Influenza Surveillance in the United States.
Why is there a week-long lag between the data and when it’s reported?
Influenza surveillance data collection is based on a reporting week that starts on Sunday and ends on the following Saturday of each week. Each surveillance participant is requested to summarize the weekly data and submit it to CDC by the following Tuesday afternoon. The data are then downloaded, compiled, and analyzed at CDC. The data are used to update FluView and FluView Interactive on the following Friday.
Do other respiratory viruses circulate during the flu season?
In addition to flu viruses, several other respiratory viruses also circulate during the flu season and can cause symptoms and illness similar to those seen with flu infection. These respiratory viruses include rhinovirus (one cause of the “common cold”) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is the most common cause of severe respiratory illness in young children as well as a leading cause of death from respiratory illness in those aged 65 years and older.
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