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    Three steps to fight the flu (influenza)

    Each year in the United States, up to 20 percent of the population gets influenza (often called the flu), and about 200,000 people are hospitalized from its complications. Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. Take these three steps to protect yourself.


    The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year.

    • The flu vaccine is safe, and it’s the most effective way to protect yourself.
    • Almost everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu shot.
    • Flu viruses change every year, so the vaccines produced are based on predictions about the most common strains of flu viruses expected during the upcoming season.

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    Stop the spread of germs

    • Wash your hands regularly with soap or an alcohol-based sanitizer, cover your cough and stay home when sick.
    • Sneeze or cough into the bend of your arm or use a tissue.
    • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.

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    Take care if you get the flu

    If you have the flu, you may feel tired, achy, feverish and dehydrated. You may also get a sore throat, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, headache or diarrhea.

    • Stay home if you are sick, and get plenty of rest.
    • Take pain medication (such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen) for fever and aches. If you’re allergic to these medicines contact your doctor. Do not give children aspirin. Pregnant women should not take ibuprofen.
    • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, soups and drinks with electrolytes.
    • Minimize exposure to others at home or elsewhere.
    • Do not use alcohol or tobacco.
    • If you suspect you have the flu, talk to your doctor to see if prescription antiviral medication can help you feel better. Antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you’re sick. Antivirals work best if started within two days of getting sick.
    • Contact your doctor if you have severe symptoms or if you’re in a group more likely to have complications, such as: children under 5 or adults 65 and older, or people with ongoing health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, COPD, heart failure or kidney problems.

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    Other Tips

    When to call the doctor
    Do's and don'ts for flu symptom medications

    From our HealthWise Health Library
    General home treatment for the flu
    Antiviral medications for the flu

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