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What is the Flu? What You Need to Know before Flu Season Hits

What is the Flu? What You Need to Know before Flu Season Hits

flu prevention for seniorsWhat is the Flu?

Influenza, also called the “flu,” is a highly contagious respiratory infection.

Flu can cause fever, chills, headache, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and muscle aches. Unlike other common respiratory infections such as the common cold, influenza can cause extreme fatigue lasting several days to more than a week. Although nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can sometimes accompany influenza infection, especially in children, gastrointestinal symptoms are rarely prominent. The illness that people often call “stomach flu” is not influenza.

Influenza is spread easily from person to person primarily when an infected person coughs or sneezes. After a person has been infected with the virus, symptoms usually appear within 2 to 4 days. The infection is considered often contagious for another 3 to 4 days after symptoms appear. Because of this, people used to think the flu was caused by the “influence of the stars and planets.” In the 1500s, the Italians called the disease “influenza,” their word for influence. Each year, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the population contracts influenza.

Flu Prevention

Flu shot- Important flu prevention for Seniors

  • How often is it covered?( Once a year in the fall or winter)
  • For whom?  (All people with Medicare Part B)
  • Your costs in the Original Medicare Plan? (You pay nothing as long as you have Medicare Part B)

There are other good health habits that can help prevent the flu. To help prevent the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home when you are sick, if possible. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Wash your hands often to help protect yourself from germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

If you get the flu, you will need to do the following:

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of liquids
  • Avoid using alcohol and tobacco
  • Take medication to relieve the symptoms of flu (always check with your doctor , you may be taking medication that might interfere with medication to manage the flu symptoms)

Sometimes, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug to help shorten the time you have the flu.

A virus causes the flu, so antibiotics (like penicillin) don’t work to cure it.

If you do have the flu, it is important that you limit your contact with others, so that they don’t get the flu from you.

Remember to wash your hands with warm soapy water frequently.

Flu Symptoms

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.

Symptoms of flu include:

  • fever (usually high)
  • headache
  • extreme tiredness
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle aches
  • Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults.

While getting a flu vaccine each year is the best way to protect against flu, influenza antiviral drugs can fight against influenza, offering a second line of defense against the flu.

Antiviral Drugs

Antiviral drugs are an important second line of defense against the flu.

  • If you do get the flu, antiviral drugs are an important treatment option. (They are not a substitute for vaccination.)
  • Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that   ight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body.
  • Antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. This could be especially important for people at high risk.
  • For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Seek emergency medical care if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the signs above.

*Information provided by CovenantCare at Home. Facts obtained from CDC, Medicare.gov and flu.gov

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