posted by Dr. Abe Tomco | November 28, 2016
As the calendar flips into the coldest months of winter, there’s another season on the minds of doctors everywhere: Flu season. Between 5 and 20 percent of the United States population will contract some form of influenza in a given year, with an average of roughly 200,000 Americans visiting a hospital for the flu and up to nearly 50,000 flu-related deaths annually. The months from December to February are the highest-risk period for new cases of influenza.
There are plenty of simple ways to lower your risk of developing the flu this winter. Here are a few tips:
Yearly vaccines are the number one way to prevent the flu virus. Recent studies have shown major reductions in flu risk among people who receive proper vaccinations every year.
Flu vaccines take a couple weeks to kick in, and are therefore generally recommended early in the fall before the flu season begins. There are two different broad types of vaccines: Trivalent, which work against three strains of influenza, and quadrivalent, which work against four strains.
Trivalent flu vaccines include:
Quadrivalent flu vaccines include:
The CDC recommends particular types of vaccines on a yearly basis. Other vaccinations are recommended within particular risk groups. For more information on your specific case and how your body might respond to vaccines, speak with your doctor.
Limiting your risk of influenza involves simple, preventative measures. Some of the most basic tips for stopping the spread of germs which can cause the flu include:
As is always the case with the human body, basic health habits are a good first line of defense against many conditions, including the flu. It’s impossible to know exactly how much factors like a good diet, healthy amounts of exercise and consistent fluid intake prevent viruses like the flu, but they certainly don’t hurt. Try to get healthy amounts of sleep every night, and do your best to manage stress where possible. Smoking also increases your risk of flu.
Certain kinds of antiviral drugs can be recommended by a doctor, and in some cases they can have a real effect on preventing or limiting the duration of the flu virus. The best results are typically found when flu symptoms are recognized early and medication is taken within the first day or two of contracting the virus.
Antiviral drugs are not a replacement for flu vaccines. Drugs may help in several areas, but they have nowhere near the preventative power of a proper vaccine. Some antiviral medications may come with limited side effects, but this is rare.
Abe Tomco, MD
As a physician, I love helping people through stressful times when they may be sick or hurt. I want to be the kind of doctor that I would want for my own family. When a doctor takes the time to help their patients understand what is happening and what the plan is, a patient’s anxiety can be greatly reduced. The patient should receive all the information they need to be an equal partner in decision-making and feel empowered about caring for their body. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.