Get Ahead of the Flu: What You Need to
Know to Stay Healthy
It’s that time of year — “Open Season” for the flu virus to attack our immune systems.
The flu, or influenza, is more than just a seasonal cold. It’s a dynamic virus that can significantly impact your health.
Read on to understand the different types of flu and why it’s crucial to stay protected to maintain your overall well-being.
What Fuels Flu Season
Flu season peaks in the Northern Hemisphere from December through March, when the sniffles, coughs, and fevers seem to be everywhere. Factors like close indoor contact, weakened immune systems, and the start of the school year contribute to the spike in flu cases.
However, the flu isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of virus, and symptoms vary from person to person. Let’s break down its most common types.
The Prevalent Types of Influenza Viruses
Symptoms: Typical flu symptoms are fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue. Influenza A makes up about 75% of all flu cases. New subtypes of flu A can emerge through mutations and cross to humans from animals. This can result in pandemics of flu A, which are not seen with flu B.
Subtypes & Impact: Influenza A is known to mutate rapidly, leading to frequent updates in annual vaccines.
Symptoms: Similar to Influenza A with occasional gastrointestinal symptoms. This can only spread from human to human.
Characteristics: Influenza B is more common in school-age children.
If you have flu symptoms, your doctor might suggest a rapid influenza diagnostic test, which is the most common type, and the results take about 15 minutes. A more accurate option is the rapid molecular assay, a quick swab test of your nose or throat that can detect the influenza virus in under 30 minutes.
Flu Strains and Shots
Every year, flu strains change. That’s why vaccines are updated annually to tackle the most common strains in halting the flu’s spread within communities.
The CDC notes that a vaccine’s effectiveness hinges on its alignment with circulating strains. Experts have updated this year’s vaccine to include the latest influenza A(H1N1) component. If the U.S. sees strains similar to those in the Southern Hemisphere this season, we should be set for solid protection.
Prevention and Preparedness During Flu Season
While the elderly, children under 5 years old, those pregnant, and people with certain chronic health conditions are most vulnerable to serious complications from flu, it’s important for everyone to take steps to safeguard against it, such as:
- Practice good hygiene: Regular hand-washing, using sanitizers, and not touching the face.
- Avoid close contact with those displaying flu symptoms.
- Stay home: If you’re unwell, avoid spreading the flu by staying isolated.
- Get a flu vaccine: This can be an effective preventive measure.
Treating the flu primarily involves alleviating symptoms and strengthening your body’s natural healing process. Upon the onset of flu symptoms, it’s important to get plenty of rest and increase your fluid intake to stay hydrated.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help reduce fever, headaches, and muscle aches. Warm salt gargles can soothe a sore throat, while steam inhalation may ease congestion.
For severe cases or those at risk of complications, prescription antiviral medications can be effective. Always remember to consult a doctor before you start or combine any medications. If you have a persistent high fever of 100.3 F or higher for 3-5 days, difficulty breathing, and/or chest pains, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Get Your Flu Shot at Hoag Medical Network
As this flu season gears up, don’t get caught unprepared. Preventive measures like getting a flu shot can go a long way.
The good news is flu vaccines are covered by most insurance plans. A quick check with your doctor or insurance provider will confirm this.
If you have flu symptoms, you can schedule an appointment at one of Hoag Medical Network’s many convenient locations, where we’re committed to offering you world-class medical care and personalized guidance.
And don’t miss the annual Hoag Flu Shot Health Fair this year at three convenient locations throughout Orange County: Irvine, Tustin, and Huntington Beach!
Click here for more information.
When it comes to your health, knowledge is power. Familiarizing yourself with the different types of flu and taking a few proactive steps can save you a lot of time and discomfort this season.