Preventing and Treating the Flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting a flu shot every year as the best and most important step to take against the flu. This can help to:

  • Reduce the numbers of people sick with the flu
  • Cut down visits to doctors
  • Reduce the number of flu related hospitalizations
  • Prevent missed days at work or school

However, sometimes people have health reasons that prevent them from being vaccinated for flu. For instance flu shots are made from eggs and some people can get a life threatening allergic reaction from the shot. Also, some people get the shot and still get the flu, although it will probably be a milder case or from a different flu strain that was not included in the vaccine. In fact, there is a need for a real universal flu vaccine that might only need to be taken once or twice in a lifetime or every few years that could give lifelong protection against the flu. See our blog post from October 11, 2018 to read more about a universal flu shot.

According to a Survey 19% of seniors do not want to be Vaccinated for the Flu

According to a survey from NORC at the University of Chicago, that was reported December 9, 2019 by McKnights Senior Living, 19% of seniors do not want to be vaccinated for the flu. The main reasons are a belief that the vaccine does not work (36%) and fear about possible side effects of the vaccine (37%).

The Flu can Lead to Serious Disease Conditions and Death

The flu can lead to serious disease conditions and complications like pneumonia and death. The elderly, small children, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases like asthma, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes are at the highest risk to have a severe case of the flu with complications. For this reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend an annual flu shot for everyone age six months and older. Those who work in long-term care facilities with the elderly must all be vaccinated.

Steps to Help Prevent Catching the Flu

The CDC recommends steps to take to avoid catching the flu.

Avoid all Contact with Sick People

Even if you have been vaccinated against the flu, you should avoid contact with sick people. The sick person may have a different strain of flu that was not included in your vaccination. Also, the virus may have mutated and you are no longer protected against it. Finally, you may be exposed to an entirely different disease than the flu.

For those of us who remember the polio epidemics of the forties and fifties before there was a vaccine, the only thing to do was to avoid crowds, swimming pools and public places. This advice also applies to the new coronavirus that so far does not have a vaccine.

If you Come Down with the Flu Stay Home and Rest

If you are sick you should also stay home to rest and keep your germs to yourself and not infect others. However, you should go out for medical care if necessary and the CDC recommends wearing a mask to avoid spreading germs to others. The mask may also protect you from picking up new dangerous germs.

Stay Home for at Least 24 Hours after Fever is Gone

The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone and this does not include taking medications to lower the fever. The idea is that if the fever from the flu is really gone and not as a result of taking something like paracetamol you may no longer be contagious.

Cover your Nose or Mouth if you Sneeze or Cough

Cover your nose or mouth with a tissue when you sneeze and cough and discard it in a closed garbage can.

Wash your Hands

Wash your hands a lot with soap and water, especially if you sneezed on your hand. If you do not have access to soap and water use an alcohol wipe or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Do not Rub your Eyes

Try not to touch or rub your eyes, nose or mouth as this can spread germs.

Sanitize Computer

Sanitize keyboards, mice, phones and desktops with disinfectant sprays or wipes. Use a cleaner designed especially as safe for cleaning your monitor, especially if you have a touch screen.

Flu Symptoms

It is not necessary to have all of these symptoms to get a diagnosis of flu and many of these are similar to the common cold. Only a special blood test can show if you have the cold virus or if you have one of the flu virus strains. Most people get mild cases of the flu and it passes without any kind of special treatment. However, if you are feeling ill or if you suffer from chronic illnesses you should see your doctor.

  • The flu is more likely to come on suddenly and a cold may come on more gradually.
  • While most people who get the flu have a fever, there are people who can be quite ill with the flu who do not get a fever.
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Sneezing and a stuffed nose
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches

Treating the Flu

Antiviral Drugs

Antiviral drugs are not sold over-the-counter, but are prescription meds. Antiviral drugs work best at the earliest stages of the flu, especially the first two days. However, many cases of the flu begin like the common cold, so people may not think they are ill enough to go to the doctor. By the time it is obvious that this is the flu and not just a simple cold, antivirus meds may not be as effective. However, if your doctor prescribes them, then by all means take them. They can shorten the time you are ill and give you a milder case of the flu. They may also prevent serious complications from the flu and thus prevent stays in the hospital.

Home Remedies

These are not to be used in place of your doctor’s advice but alongside.

  • Dress warm
  • Drink lots of fresh squeezed orange juice to get enough Vitamin C.
  • Drink herbal teas like chamomile, sage and anise seed.
  • Use a hot air vaporizer and put 1-2 drops of eucalyptus oil in the place for it near where the steam comes out. You should not put the oil directly into the vaporizer.
  • You can also try adding 1-2 drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of boiling water, put a towel over your head and face and inhale the steam.
  • Buy over-the-counter herbal cough syrups.

Flu Complications

While most people get a mild case of the flu, some people become very ill and in some cases flu can lead to death.

Warning Signs that you Need Urgent Medical Help

  • Trouble breathing and feeling short of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the abdomen or chest
  • Confusion
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Vomiting that does not go away
  • Flu that got better but came back with fever and a worse cough

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York

If you or your loved one are at the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York you should know that the residents and staff have all been vaccinated against the flu.


It certainly pays to take steps to avoid getting the flu like getting a flu shot and keeping away from sick people.



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