The holiday season is a magical time of year for people young and old in Tulsa, but it can also bring misery if you happen to come down with the flu.
Winter is the traditional cold and flu season; getting sick this time of year can easily dampen your holiday spirit. We’ve got some facts about the flu that should help you take steps to prevent it and ensure your season is merry and bright (and fever-free).
Types of Influenza
Four different types of viruses can cause influenza, though not all are dangerous to humans.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the different virus types are:
- Type A. This is the most serious and the most likely to mutate into a new strain that we have not developed a resistance to. The majority of flu pandemics in the past, including the H1N1 swine flu, were Type A viruses. There are dozens of different strains and they are constantly evolving, making a cure impossible.
- Type B. This type is less severe and affects fewer people. It is most likely to occur in children. There are a few different strains of Type B virus.
- Type C. Symptoms are mild, more like those experienced with a cold.
- Type D. We don’t have too much of a beef with this virus, which only affects cattle.
What flu types spread during winter?
All flu types are contagious, though they don’t all circulate at the same time. In an average year, there are one or two strains of Type A and Type B virus circulating. Flu shots offer your best chance of protection, though they are not 100 percent effective.
Manufacturers develop vaccines based on information provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) in February; at that time, they determine which flu virus strains are likely to be circulating the following winter.
How many flu strains does a vaccine protect against?
The vaccines offer protection from 3-4 different types of virus (usually two Type As and one or two type Bs). People nervous about flu shots should understand that the vaccine does not contain live cultures; it’s made from inactivated flu viruses that cannot make you sick.
Symptoms of Flu
Flu symptoms resemble those of the common cold, though the illness comes on more quickly and symptoms are more severe. It can even prove fatal in certain high-risk individuals such as the very young, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease.
Typical flu symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
How is the flu spread?
The virus is spread through droplets expelled into the air when you sneeze or cough. Flu is so highly contagious, even a distance of six feet isn’t enough to prevent the spread of germs.
When are people most contagious?
You are most contagious the day before your symptoms appear, making it easy to unwittingly spread the disease without even realizing it. When symptoms appear, you will remain contagious for about a week afterward. You are no longer contagious once your fever has been gone for 24 hours without the use of medication.
How is the flu treated?
Treatment for the flu involves getting lots of rest and drinking fluids to stay hydrated. Over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be used to treat aches and pains. Severe cases might require antiviral prescription medications.
What’s the best way to prevent the flu?
- Avoid giving children aspirin, which can lead to a rare but fatal complication called Reye’s syndrome.
- To prevent the spread of germs that can cause the flu, always cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap regularly.
- Use hand sanitizer for added protection.
Your Tulsa ear, nose and throat doctor is happy to provide you with more information about flu prevention.