Like it or not, flu season has arrived, bringing with it all the misery and down time that comes with contracting the influenza virus. Winter is prime cold season, as well, and it’s not too late to take measures to avoid these viruses.
According to Dr. Shaily Macker, family medicine physician at Morris Hospital Yorkville Campus, the simple routine of good hand-washing is one of the best prevention methods for the flu and colds. Alcohol hand gels will do the trick, as well, when you’re not near a sink.
These contagious viruses are spread by touching areas that those infected have touched, such as doorknobs. They can also be spread through the air, when virus particles become airborne through coughs, sneezes or just talking. Dr. Macker suggests avoiding close contact with those who have the flu or a cold.
The best way to avoid getting the flu, though, is to get the flu shot – as soon as possible.
“It’s important to get the flu vaccine every year,” Dr. Macker said. “The virus mutates each year, and different strains emerge. Plus, our immunity to the virus decreases over time.”
Dr. Macker said peak flu season typically lasts through March, so it is not too late to get the shot. It takes our bodies about two weeks to develop immunity against the virus after we get the vaccine.
“The sooner you get the vaccine,” she said, “the better.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that flu activity indicators have been higher than normal this season and recommends those six months of age and older get the flu shot. The shot does not cause a person to get the flu, Dr. Macker emphasized.
“You cannot get influenza from the shot because the vaccine does not contain live virus,” she said.
Some people might already be coming down with the flu when they get the shot, she explained, or they get the flu from someone else during the two weeks after the shot.
Symptoms of the flu include a sudden onset of fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache and/or fatigue, which may be extreme.
“The symptoms of the flu can be similar to those of the cold initially,” Dr. Macker said, “but they begin more suddenly and are normally more severe. If you suspect you have the flu, see your physician. There is medication we can give you that can decrease the duration and severity of the symptoms if taken within the first 48 hours.”
Complications of the flu can include sinus and ear infections, pneumonia and even death. Dr. Macker said it is especially important for people with such underlying conditions as diabetes, high blood pressure, immunity disorders and COPD to see their physicians if they get the flu.
For those who do get the flu, Dr. Macker recommends drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, resting properly, and taking such over-the-counter remedies as ibuprofen or acetaminophen for symptoms.
As a family medicine physician, Dr. Macker is trained to care for patients of all ages, newborns to seniors. In addition to diagnosing and treating illness, Dr. Macker provides preventive care, routine check-ups, health risk assessments, immunizations, screening tests, and personalized counseling on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To schedule a free meet-and-greet appointment with Dr. Macker, call 630-553-4600.
The Morris Hospital Yorkville Campus is located on Route 47 just 1.5 miles south of the Fox River Bridge. Services include family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology and allergist physician services, along with walk-in immediate care seven days a week, physical therapy, occupational medicine, laboratory, and X-ray, ultrasound and CT scan services. For more information about the Morris Hospital Yorkville Campus, visit morrishospital.org/yorkville.