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What is Influenza (also called Flu)?

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each fall.

Every year in the United States, on average:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
  • more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and;
  • about 36,000 people die from flu.

Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Symptoms of Flu

Symptoms of flu include:

  • fever (usually high)
  • headache
  • extreme tiredness
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle aches
  • Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults

 

Complications of Flu

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

 


Protecting Your Family From The Flu

Sure you may be thinking about your own health when the flu season rolls around. But, if you are a parent, you are also likely thinking about how you can protect your children from the flu. When your children enter school, you quickly learn all about how quickly germs are spread from one family to the next. This is usually because children are much worse about spreading their germs around. There are ways you can help protect your family from the flu. Take a look at these ideas and start implementing them right away.


Teach Them


One of the best ways you can protect your family from the flu or any other basic illness is by teaching them how to avoid germs. You don't have to be crazy about your approach, because you might end up fostering a "germaphobic" child, which is not a good thing. You should just make it clear that they should constantly wash their hands before eating or doing anything else that may include them touching their mouth, eyes, or nose. When you get them into this habit, they will do it automatically, without fail. And, they will be protecting themselves from the flu overall.


Another thing you should teach them is how to stay aware from people who are coughing or sneezing. In addition, you can teach them how to cover their own mouths when they are ill. You can teach them not to share food and drinks with anyone else ever. This will be a big thing to teach, because children are naturally taught to share. Tell them that saying "no" to sharing food and drinks is important to their health.


Immunize Them


Another way you can easily keep your children safe from the flu is by getting them a flu shot. It is important to talk with your child's doctor before doing this. There may be issues with your child's health that need to be evaluated before they get a flu shot. Overall however, the flu shot will help your child avoid the flu. And if they do get the flu, the case will be so much smaller than normal that you will still be glad you got them the shot.


Keep Them Home


If your children do get the flu, you will need to keep them home from school. This is not only essential to their recovery, but also important so they don't spread the flu elsewhere. You may want to quarantine them to a specific area of the home and not let anyone else near them for a while. Of course you will need to take of them, but you might even consider getting a mask to wear around them. This is one way you can protect the rest of your family from the flu and keep everyone as healthy as possible.


Make Them Healthy


Teaching your children the importance of exercise and eating healthy foods is another way to keep them healthy and away from the flu. When they are in good health, their bodies will be able to fight off germs better, resulting in fewer illnesses overall.

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Who Should Get Vaccinated?

In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, certain people should get vaccinated each year either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for high risk persons. During flu seasons when vaccine supplies are limited or delayed, ACIP makes recommendations regarding priority groups for vaccination.

People who should get vaccinated each year are:

1. People at high risk for complications from the flu, including:

  • Children aged 6–59 months of age,
  • Pregnant women,
  • People 50 years of age and older,
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, and
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities.

2. People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:

  • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu (see above)
  • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
  • Health care workers.

3. Anyone who wants to decrease their risk of influenza.

 

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