Fact Checked

It’s Sneezing Season: What To Do to Avoid the Flu

It’s that the time of the year again, when everybody seems to be sniffling and sneezing. Flu season is back, and it affects approximately 5-20% of US residents each year, according to CDC.gov. This contagious respiratory virus usually begins in the fall and can continue through late spring. Anyone can be affected, and it varies from mild to severe depending on your risk level.

Google noticed several years ago that it could predict the outbreak of the flu by tracking people’s search patterns on Google.com.  You can see this chart here: www.google.org/flutrends.

According to the chart last year’s flu was extremely severe, while the flu in 2012 was not. You can also see how the flu spreads over time, for example in 2013 searches for the flu started increasing in early November, peaking in January.  As you can see we are entering flu season.  What does this mean for you?

People more likely to experience complications from seasonal flu include seniors (age 65 and above), children (younger than 2) and people with chronic health conditions. These chronic health conditions include people with asthma, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, liver disease, HIV and weakened immune systems.

While traditional methods on preventing the flu may vary, the Center for Disease Control recommends getting a yearly flu shot. Everyday preventive actions can also help stop the spread of germs. These include avoiding close contact with sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, disinfecting surfaces that might be contaminated with germs, and using an alcohol based hand rub in the absence of soap and water. Flu antiviral drugs, if prescribed by your doctor, can also make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick.

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