While the holidays are typically a time for travel, great meals and spending quality time with loved ones, the season can also include an unwelcome guest: influenza (flu). Flu is a contagious viral infection that can affect anyone. In the US, the 2018-2019 flu season was the longest in 10 years, lasting from September 2018 to mid-May 2019, and causing nearly 43 million illnesses.
Don’t let a visit from flu disrupt your holiday plans this year. Consider these tips before you hop on a plane, attend a company holiday party or eat a home-cooked meal with family and friends.
Get an annual flu vaccine
Although the flu vaccine is the best preventive measure against flu, a recent survey conducted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) found that only 52 percent of US adults planned to get vaccinated against flu this season. The most commonly cited reason for not getting vaccinated was the belief that the vaccine “doesn’t work well.” However, even if the vaccine does not prevent infection completely, it can still reduce the severity and duration of the illness and prevent serious complications.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age six months and older get vaccinated every year. If you have not yet been vaccinated against flu this season, it’s not too late — getting vaccinated during the winter months is still beneficial. Not only will you be protecting yourself, but also your loved ones (and fellow passengers on your plane if you do plan to travel). Those at greatest risk for flu-related complications include young children, adults age 65 years and older, and those with certain chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes.
Practice healthy habits
Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth; wash your hands frequently; and cover your coughs and sneezes. As challenging as it can be during this time of year, also focus on eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and managing your stress. Most importantly, stay at home if you are sick so you don’t spread the illness to others. CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
If you think you’re sick, don’t wait
Symptoms of flu often come on suddenly and include fever, aches, chills, tiredness, cough, runny nose and headaches. If you think you might have the flu, contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible, and if prescribed, take flu antiviral medicine as directed. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder, shorten the time you are sick and may also prevent serious flu-related complications.
Don’t let the flu catch you by surprise this holiday season. Take charge of your health and remember that annual vaccination is the best way to protect against flu and related complications. Visit www.nfid.org/flu to learn more about how you can #FightFlu.