It gets dark earlier, the temperature is about to drop–as much as it does in Hudson Florida anyway– and it’s almost a new year. It’s definitely about that time of year again. No, not the holidays; we are talking about flu season. By most standards flu season lasts from the beginning of December all the way through the end of March. In reality it can start a couple of months earlier than that and end a few months later.
What Exactly Is the Flu?
Influenza is a viral respiratory illness, meaning it is caused by a microorganism, and it affects the nose, throat and lungs. The microorganisms that cause the flu need to attach to living cells–like the millions that make up our bodies–in order to survive. Once they have attached to living cells, they begin to reproduce and grow. When they have reproduced into significant numbers, your body begins to feel the unwelcome effects of the flu. The virus is thought to spread when infected people cough, sneeze and talk. They expel the virus into the air and uninfected people then come into contact with it. If any of the expelled particles–which are invisible to the naked eye–come into contact with your nose, mouth or eyes then you may indeed become infected.
Flu symptoms usually come on quickly. One can go from feeling fine in the morning to very sick by that evening. Symptoms include:
- Cough (dry and unproductive, meaning that your body does not expel any mucus)
- Runny and/or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Significant fatigue
Is Influenza Dangerous?
Each case of influenza might be slightly different for each person, so you may suffer from some or all of the above symptoms. Most people have a strong enough immune system to ultimately defeat the flu. It can be a serious issue for some people. It is difficult to accurately estimate the number of deaths caused by influenza, but it is important to note that influenza can be detrimental to people with other medical conditions. Most of the death associated with flu are likely a result of influenza in combination with other medical conditions and generally occur in people who are 65 years old or more. The groups of people who stand the highest chance of having serious complications due to the flu are:
- Children younger than five years old but older than six months
- Adults age 65 or older
- People with asthma (regardless of how mild it may be)
- People with chronic lung disease
- People with neurological disorders (any condition that affects the nerves, brain, spinal cord or muscles)
- Patients undergoing aspirin therapy
- Patients diagnosed with kidney or liver disorders
- Anyone who has a weakened immune system
What Can We Do About It?
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet full of nutrients is a great way to keep your body and immune system strong yet it still does not guarantee that you will avoid the flu. The best way to avoid suffering from influenza this season is to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine comes out every year and is specially designed to protect you from the most common strains of influenza. It is available in two different forms:
- Injected Flu Vaccine- You have probably heard of flu shots. They are a very common form of the flu vaccine that represent a great option for people six, months old or more who want to avoid the flu. It is a quick and relatively painless way to avoid contracting the virus. In some cases you may develop a slightly red and swollen bump at the site where you received the injection. You may also have a headache and light fever but none of these symptoms last more than a day or two if they develop at all.
- Nasal Flu Vaccine- If you aren’t into the idea of a shot, you can ask for a nasal spray that contains the vaccine. It is available for people aged 2-49 years who do not have a chronic medical condition or come into contact with people with weak immune systems. Side effects may include runny nose, light fever, headache, sore throat or cough. Again these side effects are mild and short lived and do not develop in everyone.
If you would like more information on influenza or are in need of a flu shot, feel free to visit us online or in person. We are located in Hudson but are happy to serve residents of Trinity, New Port Richey and the rest of the Nature Coast.