Flu season is here and whether it is the ordinary flu or the dreaded swine flu, it should be avoided by all means. You’ve probably heard them all: cover your cough, wash your hands, get a flu shot, etc. But you still hear new cases of swine flu outbreaks.
Finally, swine flu vaccines have been rolled out this month. In Indiana and Tennessee, the health care workers were the first to get the nose-spray version and New Yorkers had their chance too. However, it could be weeks for some people to get their chance at the shot or spray. It would likely depend on the age and risk factors. So while waiting, what can you do?
CNN shares a guide of what you should and should not do at the moment.
Look up local flu outbreaks.
40% of the people get most of their news from the internet. If you are one of them, you may not be up on H1N1 activity in your community.
Take the time to check local flu activity on the online version of your local newspaper or health department.
Check out Google Flu Trends (though keep in mind that this map is based on search trends and could be skewed if lots of healthy people are searching for information).
You can also try FluTrends, which is produced by Rhiza Labs, and includes past cases and current activity, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) weekly flu update.
For most people, an H1N1 infection is generally mild and can be cured with time, bed rest, and fluids. The virus is serious, though — particularly for those in high-risk groups.
There’s no need to panic if you arm yourself with proper diet and ample rest.
If you (or your child) are not in a high-risk group but are showing signs and symptoms of a flu, it’s best to stay put.
If a child has difficulty breathing, is unable to take fluids, or starts to be less responsive, or after appearing to recover from the influenza develops a fever and starts coughing again, then see a doctor.
If you are pregnant and have flu symptoms, it might be best to call your doctor before going in to see him or her. We don’t want the pregnant woman with influenza who is coughing and sneezing to go into the room with pregnant women who are well and just there to get routine prenatal care.
Understand the risks.
H1N1 may be easier to catch than regular flu, and younger people may be more likely to come down with it than older people.
With H1N1, it looks like most people — other than the elderly — have no immunity to it, and that may be why it appears more contagious, says Dr. Nathan Litman, the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, in New York City.
Get a seasonal flu shot. The regular seasonal flu shots are available now.
Get a pneumonia vaccine.
The pneumonia vaccine, a shot that can help prevent any illness caused by certain types of pneumococcus bacteria, including meningitis and ear infections, may be a good idea too.
Approved in 2001 and called Prevnar, it’s routinely given to children. Another vaccine, Pneumovax, is available for adults, and is recommended for the elderly and those at high risk of infections.
Wash your hands.
Washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol rub can help. Just keep in mind that hand-washing may fall into the “can’t hurt and may help” category.
Don’t stock up on face masks or Tamiflu.
Most experts say that’s not a recommended or a proven way to prevent infection, although some studies suggest that they can be helpful in homes with a flu-infected family member or when used by hospital workers.
If Tamiflu is gathering dust in your medicine cabinet, then people who truly need it may find the pharmacies are fresh out. And the surest route to a drug-resistant flu virus is having people taking it “just in case” or for symptoms that would go away on their own.
If you or your child is perfectly healthy, you can get the nose-spray version, which contains a weakened, but not killed, virus.
If you’re in a high-risk group, you may have to wait a bit for the version with killed virus, which is given in shot form.
If you do want to get an H1N1 flu shot, it’s best to be patient. It may take weeks before everyone who wants one can get it. In the meantime, think about what you will do if you or a family member does get sick.