We all know that we’re supposed to be on the lookout for the flu around this time of year. The common cold is probably inevitable, but with some proper planning, we can avoid getting the flu. At least, that’s what’s been proven true in years past.
However, this year the flu is especially bad. This is mostly because a strain of the flu virus (H3N2) is more prevalent this year than it’s been in the past. The medical community sees it as more dangerous than other types of flu, and to top it off, it’s not as vulnerable to the vaccine as other strains are. Experts are predicting that the flu season might even extend until May this year.
The staples are always good— wash your hands; cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing; and stay home from work or school if you’re sick— but is there anything else you can do to protect yourself and your family?
Get Your Vaccinations
Wait, even though vaccinations are less effective against H3N2 than other strains? Yes, absolutely, according to the CDC.
First of all, the vaccine might prevent infection altogether. During H3N2-heavy flu seasons, the vaccine has about a 33 percent effectiveness, much lower than during times where other strains are more prevalent. However, a one-in-three chance is better than a zero-out-of-three chance, so you should at least start there.
Secondly, even if you do contract the virus, your symptoms might be less severe if you are vaccinated. This means that you suffer less, which is a huge bonus in and of itself, but it also means that you’ll presumably be contagious for less time. The less time you are contagious, the less chance that you’ll spread it to someone you love.
Identify Your Level of Vulnerability
If you or your loved ones are at risk for serious flu complications, then you might need to take additional steps. At-risk conditions include asthma, some blood disorders, obesity, or a weakened immune system, whether due to HIV/AIDS or certain medications. If you have any doubts about whether or not you are part of an at-risk group, contact your healthcare provider and ask.
Those who are at risk are encouraged to see their doctor if they believe they might be infected. He or she might provide you with antiviral drugs. These drugs will actually help you fight the infection, unlike other medications that just cover the symptoms. Furthermore, antivirals do not have the risk of addiction like many cold and cough medicines, so turn towards an actual cure before you attempt to ameliorate the symptoms.
Learn How to Identify the Flu
This may seem obvious. After all, you have probably suffered from the flu several times before and are confident that you’d be able to recognize it. However, it can be more difficult than you think, especially if it’s your child who’s sick. You can’t feel what they feel, and they might not know how to accurately communicate their symptoms.
Luckily, diagnosing apps are becoming more and more popular. While you should not rely on any third-party service more than a healthcare professional, many of these apps take it a step above just listing the symptoms. Several have devices that you can plug into your phone that can collect data such as your blood pressure, your glucose levels, or even the presence of the strep virus. Not everyone can afford to have access to these sort of diagnosing technologies, though, so rely on your doctor.
Don’t Wait for It to Get Worse
Where it really gets tricky, though, is differentiating between the flu and a bad cold. A long-lasting fever is generally where many draw the line, but that’s not always the case. However, if your or your child’s fever lasts for more than 3 days, it’s important to seek medical attention. Adults can last a little longer than need be, but more than three days of fever for a child is especially dangerous.
If you can’t be seen right away by a doctor, don’t delay. In this outbreak, it’s important to be seen as soon as possible. Go to an urgent care center to get an evaluation if necessary. The flu has already killed 84 children in the US. Don’t wait for more before you take this seriously.