The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the number of people sick with the flu is on the rise across the country. The American Red Cross wants everyone to know what the symptoms of influenza are, and how to best protect themselves against the flu.
The areas with the highest reported flu activity are New York City, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, although patients with flu-like symptoms have been reported in most states.
So, how does someone know if they have the flu? The common signs of influenza are:
- High fever
- Severe body aches
- Extreme tiredness
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children)
The best protection against influenza is to get a flu vaccine, and it’s not too late to do so. Besides vaccination, the Red Cross has some simple steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu:
- Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
- Wash your hands often, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers (60-95% alcohol) are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
If someone in your household does come down with the flu, the Red Cross wants you to know the best way to care for them:
- Designate one person as the caregiver.
- Keep everyone’s personal items separate. All household members should avoid sharing pens, papers, clothes, towels, sheets, blankets, food or eating utensils unless cleaned between uses.
- Disinfect doorknobs, switches, handles, computers, telephones, toys and other surfaces that are commonly touched around the home or workplace.
- Wash everyone’s dishes in the dishwasher or by hand using very hot water and soap.
- Wash everyone’s clothes in a standard washing machine as you normally would. Use detergent and very hot water and wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.
- Wear disposable gloves when in contact with or cleaning up body fluids.
It may be difficult to tell if you are suffering from the flu or another illness. Your health-care provider should be consulted if you are concerned about possible complications from flu-like symptoms. You can find more information about how to help keep you and your loved ones protected from the flu virus by visiting RedCross.org.