The wintery season makes it the
perfect time for warm sweaters, hot mugs of cocoa – and seasonal influenza.
Commonly referred to as the flu, influenza is a contagious respiratory illness
caused by the flu virus. According to Cindy Robertson, infection prevention
director at CoxHealth, oftentimes people will confuse the common cold with the
flu. However, the flu is a very serious illness.
The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention estimates that on average each year in the U.S., 5 to 20 percent of
the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from
seasonal flu-related complications. Flu symptoms often include fever, body
aches, fatigue and cough.
Compared to the common cold, these
symptoms are typically much more intense and will last one to two weeks with
“While the flu is a serious
illness, the good news is, it is easy to protect yourself,” says Robertson.
“Immunization is a person’s No. 1 line of defense against the virus.”
The CDC recommends everyone six
months and older receive an annual flu vaccination with rare exception.
“The flu vaccine can prevent the
flu or greatly reduce its severity and ultimately reduce flu-related
hospitalizations and deaths,” Robertson says. “Getting vaccinated is easier now
than it ever has been with many local pharmacies offering the vaccine, and all
CoxHealth primary care providers have the vaccine available. If a person does
receive the vaccination outside of their primary care provider’s office, they
should just let their provider’s office know.”
While the flu vaccine is a person’s
best line of defense against the seasonal flu, good health habits can also
protect you against the flu.
“Those good health habits that
protect you from the common cold and other viruses also help prevent the spread
of flu,” Robertson says.
· Try to avoid close contact
with anyone who is ill
· Limit contact with others
when you are sick
· If you have been ill with
flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone,
except to get medical care or for other necessities
· Cover your nose and mouth
with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
· Wash your hands often with
soap and water. If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand
· Avoid touching your eyes,
nose and mouth
· Clean and disinfect surfaces
and items that may be contaminated with germs
to do if you get the flu? If you’re located in the state of Missouri, you don’t
even need to leave your home to be treated. Simply use DirectConnect,
CoxHealth’s telemedicine tool, to reach a provider via your smartphone or other
video-enabled device. For more information, click