Tips for staying healthy during flu season
With busy work and home lives, most people don't have time to get stuck in bed fighting the flu virus. During the months of October through April, the risk of catching the flu spikes in most areas, peaking around February. Here’s what you need to know about the flu and how to stay healthy during flu season.
What causes the flu?
Influenza, or "the flu," is a respiratory infection that is spread by various flu viruses that find their way into the body through a person's mouth or nasal passages.
How many people get the flu each year?
Five to 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year,1 and anyone is susceptible to the virus. Certain groups of people face a higher risk of getting the flu, including:
- Those with weakened immune systems
- Children younger than age four
- Seniors older than age 65
- People with chronic illness, like heart disease or diabetes
- Pregnant women
- People with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
Flu symptoms to watch for
The flu typically brings fever, chills, sweats, muscle aches, sore throat, headaches, fatigue and coughing. Often mistaken as signs of the common cold, flu symptoms tend to be more severe and come on more rapidly.
After a flu diagnosis, a doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication such as Tamiflu to help shorten the duration of illness. Rest and hydration may promote faster recovery, and an over-the-counter pain reliever may help minimize a flu victim's discomfort in the meantime.
To reduce the likelihood of contracting the flu virus, or spreading the flu to others, follow these tips:
- Keep tissues on hand for sneezes and coughs
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Wipe down the areas of your home or office that are touched frequently, like keyboards, doorknobs, fridge and toilet handles, light switches and phones
- Avoid crowds during peak flu season
- Keep your immune system strong by eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep
- Get a flu shot before the season starts to help minimize your chances of developing the flu and reduce the severity of your symptoms if you fall victim; there are several types of vaccines targeting different strains of flu virus, so be sure to ask your doctor which flu shot is best for you
Remember, you can use your CareCredit credit card to pay for any doctor visits, including flu shots and flu treatment appointments, and over-the-counter flu remedies. Use our Acceptance Locator or download the CareCredit Mobile App to find a provider near you who accepts CareCredit.