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It’s fall in Texas, and with it brings cooler temperatures, changing foliage and, unfortunately, the flu. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, flu season officially runs October through May. In Texas, flu activity typically peaks in January or February; however, we’re already seeing flu cases in our emergency rooms.

To avoid the flu, St. David’s HealthCare recommends you get vaccinated each year, and the earlier, the better. People should get the influenza vaccine every year, not only because protection decreases over time, but also because a new vaccine is developed annually to match the specific strains of flu expected to be circulating that year.

This year, healthcare providers are worried it may be an especially bad flu season after an increased flu outbreak in Australia. The current flu shot protects against a strain of influenza called H3N2, which made up most of the cases in Australia.

Don’t let your busy schedule prevent you from staying healthy this flu season. Many employers, universities and healthcare providers make it easier than ever to get vaccinated. Some grocery stores and local pharmacies offer the flu shot, as well. It can take less than 10 minutes to get vaccinated!

Preventing the Flu

  • Get vaccinated. While the elderly population, children and people with chronic illnesses are at an increased risk of flu complications, healthy adults should get vaccinated, too. It is highly recommended that women who are or will become pregnant during the flu season get an influenza vaccine.
  • Take everyday precautions. Try to avoid close contact with people who are ill, and limit contact with others if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. Wash your hands often with soap and water, and avoid touching areas where germs are more likely to spread, such as the eyes, nose and mouth.

Treating the Flu

  • Take antiviral medication. If your doctor prescribes you antiviral drugs for the flu, take them. This can shorten the length of your illness and minimize symptoms. Plus, the medicine can prevent flu complications in those who are at an increased risk, as well as those with a suppressed immune system.
  • Stay home. If you suspect you have the flu or are diagnosed by your doctor, stay home until your fever is gone for a full 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine, such as ibuprofen.

Ken Mitchell, M.D., is the chief medical officer for St. David’s HealthCare.

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