Flu season officially started with the first week of October, now in its seventh week, the numbers are just starting to climb. As we enter peak flu activity (December through February), many wonder how to keep healthy and, if they do contract the flu, how to beat it quickly.
Locally, numbers are still being processed, however, on a regional level, the outlook is good so far, with flu activity being labeled “sporadic” by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). According to the ODH’s data, in the Northwestern Ohio region, where Huron and Erie counties are categorized, seven influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported in the past three weeks. That’s about on par with the state’s five year average.
Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect you and your family from the flu, according to Huron County Public Health (HCPH).
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone 6 months and older should get flu vaccine. HCPH encourages the community to get an annual flu shot as soon as possible. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection. Getting a flu shot now is the best way to protect against flu for the upcoming season.
To schedule an appointment, call HCPH at 419-668-1652 Ext. 241. Vaccinations can also be gotten at most drug stores around the community.
Who should get a flu vaccine?
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine, especially those that are at higher risk of serious flu complications. These people can include:
• Children younger than 5 years old
• People 65 years and older
• Those with chronic medical conditions
• Anyone with someone in the home that is unable to get a flu vaccine
Why get a flu vaccine?
The main purpose for getting a flu vaccine is to stay healthy through flu season. Studies have shown that getting a flu vaccine reduces the risk of illness by 40-60%. However if you do get sick, it can help reduce the severity of symptoms and reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization. Getting a flu vaccine can also help protect those around you that are either too young or have certain health conditions that prevent them from receiving their own flu vaccine.
Staying healthy this flu season
It’s important to know that a major flu-fighting factor is to address your immune system — your daily lifestyle habits and diet can help determine if you’ll get sick this season.
National holistic health and wellness specialist, Dr. Natalya Fazylov offered these tips to those City University of New York: eat plenty of protein-containing foods to help your body build more antibodies for a better immune system; drink plenty of fluids, especially water; be sure to get enough sleep (about eight hours is recommended); and keep up on daily vitamins and vitamin C to help boost your immune system. These tips will help you beat the flu faster too, if you do happen to catch it.
Community members can reduce their risk of getting sick this flu season by practicing healthy habits, HCPH said.
These habits include:
• Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing – cough or sneeze into your elbow
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
— Home: cellphones, kitchen sink, toilet, garbage can, refrigerator, bathroom doorknob
— Work: phone receiver, desktop, keyboard, elevator button, toilet seat
— Outdoor/public surfaces: handrails, shopping cart handles, picnic tables
• Stay home when you are sick – as long as you’re coughing and sneezing you could be spreading germs that cause the flu
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick
Hand washing is another very important habit that people can do to avoid getting sick, HCPH said. When washing your hands make sure to lather them with soap and clean water, and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. To avoid spreading germs, wash your hands:
• Before, during, and after preparing or eating food
• Before and after caring for someone who is sick
• After using the toilet, changing diapers, or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
• Blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing