What To Know About Flu Shots And How To Prevent Influenza Illnesses

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he 2022-2023 flu season in the U.S. is expected to be worse than in previous years, with an anticipated increase in the number of cases. Experts recommend several ways to avoid getting sick with influenza.

One of the key ways to prevent illness is to get a flu vaccination. These shots are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be administered by the end of October.

Flu season in the Northern Hemisphere typically shows an increase in cases in October, peaks from December to February, and can last as long as May, according to the CDC.

“The best way to reduce your risk from seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications is to get vaccinated every year,” advised the CDC, recommending flu shots for ages 6 months and older.

A flu vaccination not only can prevent a person from getting sick and suffering symptoms, but it can also reduce the severity of their illness, as well as the risk of hospitalization related to the influenza virus.

This season’s flu shot has been reformulated to protect against four main strains of influenza that research has indicated will be the most common in the U.S. The Southern Hemisphere is currently experiencing one of its worst flu seasons in recent history.

According to the CDC, only half of Americans get an annual flu shot, with millions of people becoming ill, hundreds of thousands requiring hospitalization, and tens of thousands dying from the virus.

While the flu vaccine is recommended as the first line of defense against the influenza virus, the agency also has other recommendations for avoiding becoming sick.

Avoiding close contact with others who are sick with the flu is advised, as well as preventing the spread of the virus by covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Handwashing often with soap and water is also recommended, as well as avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth.

If a person becomes sick with the flu, the CDC says they should stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone without the need to use fever-reducing medications.

Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue, with some people experiencing vomiting and diarrhea or respiratory symptoms without a fever.

There are treatments available for flu illnesses, including antiviral drugs, which must be prescribed by a professional. These medications are designed to reduce flu illnesses and prevent flu complications, the CDC said.

“Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a higher risk factor or is very sick from flu,” the agency said on its website.

“If you are at higher risk from flu and get flu symptoms, call your health care provider early so you can be treated with flu antivirals if needed. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug,” the CDC added.

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