The best way for people to protect themselves from the flu is to get vaccinated — and it’s not too late to get a shot, an infectious diseases expert says.
The flu vaccine also protects those who aren’t able to get it, including infants younger than 6 months and people with certain allergies and medical conditions, said Dr. Jeffrey Kahn. He is chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Those who think it’s too late to get vaccinated should reconsider since flu season lasts until spring, Kahn said in a medical center news release.
UT Southwestern outlines other ways people can reduce their risk of getting the flu:
- Keep your hands clean. Be sure to wash your hands well and often. If soap and water aren’t readily available, opt for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It’s also important to be aware of what you touch, including commonly used surfaces and objects like phones, doorknobs and keyboards.
- Cover up. Be sure to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. A tissue is best but your sleeve will work if you don’t have one handy.
- Stay home. If you, your child or someone in your household gets the flu, be sure to keep that person home from school or work so they don’t spread their infection to others. It’s important for people who are sick to stay home until they fully recover.
Those who do end up with the flu should visit their doctor, Kahn recommended. There’s no cure for the flu, but antiviral drugs can ease flu symptoms if treatment is started early. The drugs are most effective for people who take them within 48 hours of developing symptoms, he explained.
Chest pains or trouble breathing are warning signs of pneumonia, and should be treated by a doctor right away.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on flu prevention.