More than 42 million people were affected by the flu during the 2018-2019 season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu season has started in the United States and is expected to run from October through late March.
In response to high flu rates from previous years and in preparation for the peak of the upcoming flu season, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is taking extra measures to promote flu education and prevention through its one-stop flu resource website, uab.edu/flu.
Visitors can find information on uab.edu/flu about where to get the flu shot, what to do if they have the flu, how to avoid spreading it and other frequently asked questions. It also includes resources such as informational “myth vs. truth” videos and posters that can be shared by schools, churches and other public places. The site is UAB’s primary flu resource center and will be kept up to date regularly throughout the season.
Staying flu free
UAB experts agree that a flu shot is a simple way to avoid the flu. Not only can getting the flu shot keep you from getting the flu, but it can help reduce any symptoms you may experience should you end up having the flu. Another important reason to get the flu shot is that it protects people you come in contact with from becoming infected.
The CDC recommends getting the flu shot before the end of October if possible, as it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take effect. While you can still get a flu shot in January, experts urge that getting vaccinated earlier in the season better prepares your immune system to fight off any contact with the flu virus, whereas getting it later in the season can lead to less protection.
Treating the flu
According to UAB Hospital Epidemiologist Rachael Lee, M.D., the flu can strike with zero warning.
“You will have fevers, body aches, a sore throat and coughing, and then you can have other symptoms as well, such as shortness of breath,” Lee said. “You can feel dehydrated, meaning you may be dizzy, and you may be a little bit confused.”
Once you have the flu, what can make you feel better?
“Give it time,” said Starr Steinhilber, M.D., physician in UAB’s Division of Internal Medicine. “Viruses will run their course, and there’s very little you can do to speed them up; but there are things that can make you feel better in the meantime.”
Her tips include:
- Do not underestimate the power of ibuprofen or acetaminophen. For older children and adults, it can make a world of difference in relieving symptoms.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Take an antiviral medicine if prescribed by your doctor.
- A humidifier, steam from a hot shower or saline spray will help with sinuses temporarily and do not have many side effects. The more sinuses drain, the less likely you will get a sinus or ear infection.
- Lozenges or anything to suck on will help the throat feel better. Your throat hurts because of sinus drainage, and keeping it moist helps reduce that pain.
For more information and helpful tips regarding the flu, visit UAB’s flu resources at uab.edu/flu.
This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News website.