Top tips for weathering flu season

Jan 25, 2018, 13:26 PM by Dr. Megan Berman, associate professor, Department of Internal Medicine

Flu ManThe 2018 flu season is shaping up to be a nasty one, as a severe strain of the flu—H3N2—has spread to most U.S. states, including Texas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by the end of the first week in January, the entire continental U.S. reported widespread flu activity.

Although this year’s flu season is off to a fast start with many people showing the tell-tale signs of having the flu; such as fever and/or chills, cough, sore throat, congestion, body aches, headaches and fatigue; there’s still time to take action. The following tips can help you and your family stay healthy:

  • Get vaccinated. It’s not too late! Flu season can last into the spring months and vaccination is the most effective way to prevent flu. You may have heard that the flu vaccine is not very effective this year; however, when you get vaccinated, your body produces antibodies that protect against three or four different strains of flu viruses. So, even if the vaccine is less effective against one strain, you are still getting protection from the other variations. In addition, if you do come down with the flu, the illness is usually less severe if you’ve had your flu vaccine.
  • Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Keep your hands away from your face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way. If you blow your nose, wash your hands afterward.
  • Steer clear when you can. If you have a sick family member at home, don’t share food or drinks, cups, utensils, towels, pillows or bedding. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated. 
  • Pamper your immune system. Keep eating a healthy diet, stay hydrated and make sure you get plenty of rest. Daily exercise also helps.
  • Mind your flu manners. Don’t try to stick it out at work if you aren’t feeling well. Stay home when you are sick and prevent spreading your illness to others. The rule of thumb is to stay home for at least 24 hours after you are fever free. •
  • Take antivirals if your doctor prescribes them. If you get the flu, antiviral drugs may help make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. Studies show that antiviral drugs for the flu work best when they are started within two days of getting sick, but starting them later may still be helpful. Follow your doctor’s advice for your situation.

If you are a UTMB employee or dependent and need to see a primary care provider about your symptoms, call the Access 2-Care line at 409-772- 2273 to set up a same-day or next-day appointment. For more information on flu prevention, symptoms and treatment, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.