The days are getting shorter and temperatures cooler in the Northern Hemisphere, while leaves turn vivid shades of orange, red and yellow in many areas. Signs are a-plenty that autumn is in full swing, but with some of fall’s positive attributes comes a negative one, too: flu season.
Flu season goes from early October through May but most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that anyone aged 6 months or older get a flu vaccine, which is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.
Crawford & Company is doing its part to ensure that personnel are protected against the flu. On Sept. 24, many employees in the Atlanta Support Center received on-site flu vaccinations while other U.S. Crawford employees received flu shots at work or a voucher for a vaccination elsewhere. The CDC suggests getting vaccinated now, if you haven’t already, because it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
Flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, who will provide between 171 and 179 million doses of vaccines for the U.S. market. Vaccines are offered by many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies, employers, and even schools. This HealthMap Vaccine Finder helps locate places where flu vaccines are available.
While the vaccine is the first line of defense against the flu, other preventative measures can be taken to lessen the chance of contracting the illness. The CDC recommends:
- Avoiding close contact with those afflicted
- Staying home when you’re sick
- Covering your mouth or nose when sneezing or coughing
- Washing hands thoroughly and often
- Avoiding unnecessary contact with your eyes, nose or mouth
- Practicing good health habits, such as getting plenty of sleep, water and exercise
Between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu each year, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications. The most-common flu symptoms include:
- 100-degree or higher fever, or feeling feverish
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Cough and/or sore throat
- Headache and/or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
It can be difficult to tell whether a person has come down with the flu or a common cold because the symptoms are similar. Health-care providers can administer a flu test within the first few days of illness. In general, though, the flu is more severe and the above-mentioned symptoms are worse that than those experienced with a cold.
If you do get sick, antiviral drugs can treat flu illness. These antiviral drugs work to make the illness milder and help a person feel better faster. They can also prevent complications, such as pneumonia. When it doubt, visit your health-care provider. Additionally, be aware of times when emergency medical attention is necessary. If you or someone in your care has the following symptoms, get immediate help:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough