It’s flu season again. If the common cold is like being sideswiped by a bike, then getting the flu is like being run over by a truck.
We want to give you some information about the flu that will help you stay healthy through the winter:
- Quick Flu Facts
- Symptoms of the Flu
- Who the Flu Threatens Most
- How the Flu Infects Your Body
- How to Prevent Getting the Flu
Quick Flu Facts
Some facts about the flu from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- The flu kills 36,000 people and hospitalizes 200,000 each year in the US alone.
- The timing of flu season is unpredictable. The season can vary in different parts of the United States and from season to season. Most flu activity typically occurs between October and May, peaking between December and February.
- When you get the flu, you’re contagious about a day before symptoms appear and remain contagious for as long as 10 days after symptoms cease, even if you’re feeling better.
- The flu virus is constantly changing: new variants appear regularly. If you have had the flu in the past, your body has antibodies that can fight that particular variant of the flu, but those antibodies may not be useful against new variants.
Symptoms of the Flu
- Fever over 100° F
- Aching muscles, especially back, arms, legs
- Chills and sweats
- Dry, persistent cough
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
Who the Flu Threatens Most
According to the CDC, some people are at greater risk for developing serious health complications from the flu:
- Children under 5 years old, but especially those under 2
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum)
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Native Americans (including Alaskan Natives)
- Obese people with a BMI of 40 or greater
- People with chronic medical conditions, especially conditions that compromise the immune system
How the Flu Infects your Body
- Day 1 The flu virus infiltrates your body via infectious droplets. You could have inhaled airborne droplets when an infected person near you coughed or sneezed. Or, you may have touched a flu-contaminated surfaced and then touched your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Days 2-4 The virus penetrates cells in your throat and lungs, and turns your own cells into virus production factories. How sinister! The virus quickly replicates. You’re contagious!
- Day 5 Symptoms strike: fever, shivers, aches, runny nose, sore throat, and cough. Ugh!
- Days 6-9 Symptoms continue and you wallow in pure misery.
- Days 10-15 Your body strikes back! Antibodies produced by your immune system begin to attack and destroy the rebellion (virus).
- Days 15+ You’re feeling better, but fatigue can still persist for days or even weeks. Remember, you’re still contagious for about 10 days after symptoms cease! Try not to pass the flu to your friends and family: cough and sneeze into your elbow, wash your hands regularly, and use hand sanitizer. Or, take this opportunity to cough on someone you don’t like 😉
Congratulations! After getting better, you are now immune to one of thousands of variants of the flu! Unfortunately, you are not immune to the thousands of other variants 🙁
How to Prevent Getting the Flu
The short answer: boost your immune system. The long answer: see our next blog post; we’ll send it to you 😉