The arrival of the fall season means more than just autumnal foliage – it also means the onset of the dreaded flu season. If you want to protect yourself from catching the flu virus this fall and winter, it’s essential to know how it spreads. Read on for more information about the flu and how to avoid it.
What is the Flu?
The flu is a common and contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The infection occurs most often in the nose, sinuses, and throat, though it can enter the lungs in more severe cases. Most cases are relatively mild, especially in normally healthy people. However, in some cases, patients could face more serious problems.
How the Flu Spreads
Because the flu is a disease of the respiratory system, the virus is present in respiratory fluids. It is spread mostly through droplets expelled through the mouth or nose when an infected person sneezes, talks, or coughs. If the droplets containing the virus land near another person’s nose or mouth, that person will likely get infected with the virus. It’s also been discovered that these droplets linger in the air for some time and can be inhaled.
When Flu Can Spread?
Because the flu spreads through the respiratory droplets from person to person, a person with the virus is most contagious when symptoms like sneezing and coughing appear. However, it is possible to spread the flu before you even know you are sick. In fact, some healthy adults have been reported to infect others an entire day before their symptoms developed.
In general, the first three to four days of the illness are when the person is most contagious. The contagiousness period usually stops when symptoms stop. Still, some adults can continue to spread the virus for up to a week after showing symptoms. Children and the immunocompromised are believed to be able to pass on the virus for even longer than seven days.
How to Prevent the Spread
Preventing the spread of the flu is crucial in keeping infection rates low during flu season. To keep from passing germs along, take extra care to wash your hands regularly, especially after using the restroom, before you eat, and after you come into contact with a person who is sick. If you have respiratory symptoms, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and consider wearing a face mask if you have to leave the house. A flu shot during flu season is also an excellent way to stay safe and slow the spread of the influenza virus.
What to Do If You Have Symptoms
If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, seek out flu testing at your nearby urgent care center. Medical providers will be able to diagnose the cause of your symptoms and offer appropriate treatment. Visit your closest urgent care today for a seasonal flu shot or symptom management assistance.