by Leslie Horton, Director of Yavapai County Community Health Services
When flu season strikes and it affects one member of your family, it often spreads like wildfire to the other members of the family if they are not vaccinated against it. This can mean a week or more of missed school for children, missed work for parents, and the risk of getting grandparents and friends very sick as well.
The best preventative measure against influenza (flu) is an annual flu vaccination for you, your children and your entire family. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccinations for everyone 6 months and older.
The flu is a serious disease that can cause hospitalization and death even in healthy individuals. Children younger than 5 — especially those younger than 2 — are at high risk of serious flu-related complications, as are adults over the age of 65 and people with compromised immune systems.
A flu vaccine offers the best defense against getting flu and spreading it to others. Getting vaccinated can reduce flu illnesses, doctor visits, missed work and school, and also prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
Influenza is dangerous for all, but some more than others:
Flu illness is more dangerous than the common cold, and can lead to serious or even fatal complications. Each year, millions of people get sick with seasonal flu; hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and some die. Children and seniors commonly need medical care because of the flu, especially children younger than 5 or adults over 65 who become sick with the flu.
Symptoms can include:
- fever or chills
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle or body aches
- vomiting and diarrhea
- Complications from flu among people in these age groups can include:
- Pneumonia: an illness in which the lungs get infected and inflamed.
- Dehydration: when a child’s body loses too much water and salts (often because fluid losses are greater than fluid intake).
- Inflammation in the respiratory tract, muscles, brain and heart.
- Worsening of long-term medical problems like heart disease or asthma.
- Brain dysfunction such as encephalopathy.
- Sinus problems and ear infections.
In rare cases, flu complications can lead to death.
Everyday preventive actions can help slow the spread of germs that cause many different illnesses and may offer some protection against the flu. Yavapai County Community Health Services offers flu shots to the public and encourages people of all ages to take the following everyday preventive actions to prevent flu:
- Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.