Doctors say precautions are key in busy flu season

January 03, 2018 05:50 PM

The flu season is shaping up to be a nasty one. Flu is already widespread in 36 states. That's four times what we saw in early January of last year.

What can you do to lower your risk?

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Doctors say get the flu vaccine, even though it's only about 10 percent effective this year based on the strain of flu that's circulating.

"The easiest way to get sick with flu is not to get vaccinated, to be around people that are sick, to not wash your hands," pointed out Dr. Kathleen Zabinski-Kramer, an internal medicine doctor and pediatrician with Albany Medical Center.

She says she washes her hands upwards of 40 times a day to keep flu at bay.

"The hand sanitizers are fine to use, but if your hands are obviously soiled or your hands get wet after being in contact with somebody, really going back to the old-fashioned soap and water is important," explained Zabinski-Kramer.

Keep in mind, flu virus can linger on door handles, shared workspaces and household goods. So if a family member gets the flu, isolate them to one room and limit contact if possible.

"Using paper towels to dry your hands off afterwards, washing towels frequently, washing anything that they may come in contact with, as well as using Lysol to spray down anything you're in contact with," advised Zabinski-Kramer.

Flu irritates your lungs, making them more susceptible to other circulating germs like staph and strep, which can lead to pneumonia -- making it even more important you stay home if you're sick.

"We used to think that just the elderly or the very young were the people at the highest risk, but now we see people that come down with pneumonias and get strep pneumonias on top of it, which actually might be their demise as opposed to the flu," explained Zabinski-Kramer.

As you work to lower your exposure to flu, keep your immune system at peak performance.

"Exercise is certainly helpful. Eating anti-oxidants rich in fruits and vegetables is important and also trying to diminish your stress, because stress we know lowers your immune system," noted Zabinski-Kramer.

If you do get sick with flu, prescription anti-viral medications like Tamiflu can reduce the severity and duration by a day or two. However, they can cause nausea.

Don't skimp on fluids and rest to help your body heal.

Flu hits hard and fast. It usually takes a week to recover from. If you're not improving after a few days, call your doctor to ensure you don't succumb to a secondary infection like pneumonia.


Benita Zahn

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