So far, the CDC estimates that from October 1st to March 9th, there have been as many as 54 million cases of the flu, and almost half of those resulted in medical visits. As many as 670,000 people have had to be hospitalized due to the flu. 

Influenza is a virus that can be deadly for some people. A fever, cough, headache, and body aches are common symptoms. Most people feel dragged down and exhausted.

Typically, the flu risk is highest between early October through the end of April, but it’s possible to get it at any time in the year. It’s just less prevalent in the summer months when people spend more time outside and are out of school. Staying healthy throughout flu season is the best way to protect yourself, your friends, and your family. Here are some tips for staying healthy from our top Fresno doctor.

Get Your Yearly Flu Shot

No one likes getting shots, and the flu shot isn’t a guaranteed way to avoid the flu. It does, however, help lower the risk of severe symptoms. Many people say they got the flu after getting the flu shot. It’s not the flu shot to blame.

For a flu shot to become effective, your body has to develop immunity from the vaccine and that can take a couple of weeks. If you’re exposed to the flu before the immunities develop, you can get the flu. Even if you’ve had the flu shot, it’s not going to prevent all strains. Scientists study patterns and predict which strains will dominate that year, and those predictions aren’t always right.

But, even if they don’t predict every strain correctly, it offers protection against severe symptoms. That lowers your risk of complications like pneumonia or sepsis, which occurs when bacterial infections occur and enter the bloodstream due to the weakened immune system during the flu. Due to these possible complications, the flu shot is always the best decision. 

Ideally, you want to get the flu shot in October to carry you through the majority of the flu season, but it’s better to get it late than not get it at all. A doctor can advise you if you should get two flu shots a year for a full year’s protection or if you need the high-dose vaccine for older patients.

Eat a Balanced Diet

A healthy diet does a lot to keep your immune system strong. While processed foods may be more convenient, they’re not the best options. You want a diet that is high in protein, fiber, and fresh produce. Calcium is good for bone health.

The goal for fruits and vegetables should be five servings per day. If you struggle to eat that many fruits and vegetables, a smoothie made with a few cauliflower florets, a cup of frozen blueberries, almond butter, a banana, and milk takes care of three servings at once.

Drink Plenty of Water

Make sure you stay hydrated. If you do get the flu, a properly hydrated body helps keep mucus thinner. That helps make it easier to loosen when you cough.

Hydration also helps the body flush waste products, move nutrients around the body, and aid with the immune response. If you can’t stand water, add sliced fruit for flavor. You can also drink seltzer, milk, or unsweetened iced or hot tea to stay hydrated.

Stay Active Year-Round

Make sure you stay active throughout the year. When it’s rainy, you can still go for a walk. Bring an umbrella if needed. When it’s too hot, you might find it harder to spend time outside, but swimming is a good way to stay cool and get exercise. 

If you’re active, it can help with weight loss. People who are overweight may have a harder time fighting the flu as it can impact the immune response.

Spend Time Outside

In addition to exercise, you want to head outside for fresh air. When a house or office is sealed up with air conditioning running, germs circulate. When you can, go outside and away from the germs. If you have a health issue that impacts your immune system, consider wearing a mask indoors. While people may not have liked them, they did a great job at lowering transmission rates of viruses like the flu and COVID-19.

When the weather’s nice, open up windows and let fresh air into the house. Air purifiers also help remove some of the germs circulating throughout a room.

Be Cautious in Confined, Crowded Events

When you have to go to an event or party, try to keep your space. Ideally, use the rule that was common in the pandemic of keeping a shopping cart’s distance between you and others. Wearing a mask also helps avoid contracting the flu from someone else.

If you hear someone coughing, stay farther away from them. Move to another area if possible. It might be nothing, but it’s better to avoid someone than risk getting the flu.

Avoid People Who Seem Sick

If you’re at a family gathering or work and someone is sick, stay as isolated as you can. As nice as it would be for others to stay home when they’re sick, it doesn’t always happen. Keep your distance to avoid getting sick. If you’re sick, make sure you stay home and avoid infecting others.

Children who attend school pick up viruses from their classmates. It’s hard for them to avoid everything. If you have grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc., you may want to avoid visiting them when they return to school after Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, mid-winter break, or spring break. As kids return to classes after a long vacation, germs spread quickly from students to teachers and vice versa.

Wash Your Hands

One of the best ways to stay healthy during flu season is by washing your hands regularly. When you use a card terminal when checking out at the grocery store, it’s hard to get to a sink, so use a hand sanitizer. You’re at work and have to open the door, wash your hands after you touch the knob.

Keep hand sanitizer with you when you can’t get to a sink, otherwise wash them after touching anything others have touched. Make sure you’re lathering up for a full 20 seconds and scrubbing between your fingers and under your nails, too.

Talk to a Doctor

If you are sick, request a telemedicine appointment with Premium Urgent Care. Our Fresno doctor can advise you on whether you should come in to be seen and what medications will help you get better faster. There’s no cure for the flu, but there are medications that can lessen the severity of the symptoms you experience, and that’s the best way to avoid hospitalization from complications like pneumonia.