The Flu And You: A Guide To The Season's Most Unwelcome Visitor

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. -- Winter is a wonderful time of the year. It is filled with sledding, snowy landscapes and hot cocoa by a cozy fire. Unfortunately, along with all of the joys of winter, we also find ourselves faced with the arrival of the flu season, reminds Jane Clementi, Supervisor of Public Health for The Valley Hospital Department of Community Health.

Avoid the flu this winter, by following several easy steps.
Avoid the flu this winter, by following several easy steps. Photo Credit: Contributed

"Although the flu season has already begun, it does not typically peak until January or February," Clementi said. "it is recommended that everyone six months of age and older should get their yearly flu vaccine by October, but it's still not too late to get your flu shot."

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses; not only will you protect yourself, but you will protect your loved ones as well. The immunization is readily available and in abundant supply. The vaccination is cost effective and the most effective way to prevent the flu. If your insurance does not cover vaccination, it will typically cost between $20 and $30. 

In addition to getting your flu shot, there are several steps you can take to decrease your risk of catching the flu. These include:

  • Avoiding close contact.
  • Washing your hands. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practicing good health habits: get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

By ensuring that you have received your flu shot and by following the above preventive measures, you are minimizing your risk of experiencing the dreaded symptoms of the flu such as:

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

"The good news is that most people are able to recover at home from flu without medical care," Clementi said. 

To ease symptoms, patients should get plenty of rest; drink fluids; treat aches and fever; use cough suppressants and expectorants to treat cough. In addition, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications that can make your illness milder and shorten the time you are sick.

The flu is highly contagious and is spread when a person with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets containing their germs land in someone else’s mouth or nose. Lessen the chance of spreading it to others by:

  • Staying home when you are sick
  • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoiding close contact

If you wish to schedule a flu vaccine, call your doctor or contact one of Valley Medical Group’s Primary and Urgent Care Centers. Valley Medical Group will have flu vaccine available through January.