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8 Flu Prevention Tips

Brace yourself, flu season is here. In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. Seasonal flu activity usually peaks in January or February, but it can occur as early as October and as late as May.

Most experts believe that you get the flu when a person with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose.

What is influenza (also called flu)?

According to the CDC, "the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death."

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.

What should I do to prepare for this flu season?

  • Getting a yearly flu vaccine is the first and most important step.
  • Stay away from sick people.
  • Wash hands to reduce the spread of germs.
  • If you are sick with flu, stay home from work to prevent spreading flu to others.
  • Routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, including doorknobs, keyboards, computer mice, and phones, to help remove germs.
  • Make sure your workplace has an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes.
  • Place hand sanitizing stations in lobbies and entrance ways, restroom exits, and common areas.
  • Install touch-free soap and paper dispensers, faucets, and flushers in place of their manual counterparts where appropriate.

Influenza

Signs and symptoms of flu

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)

*It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar flu-like symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone.

In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms, such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough, are more common and intense.

Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.