How You Can Survive the 2013 Flu Epidemic

It's the worst flu season in years, but people over 50 can still take action to protect themselves

by Andrea King Collier • Next Avenue
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(MORE: Why We Don't Do What's Good for Us)

As with all vaccines, the flu shot is more effective the more widely it's administered. So to better protect yourself and others, urge family, friends and co-workers to get vaccinated too. "It is especially important for caregivers," Bridges says, "and for grandparents who could expose newborns and infants under six months, who are too young to get the vaccine."

Typically, about 37 percent of all Americans get a flu shot each year; given the severity of this season's outbreak, the CDC hopes that closer to 50 percent of the population will eventually be vaccinated. The agency has encouraged officials to actively promote the shot nationwide.
 
Is It the Flu or Just a Cold?
 
Worried that you may have the flu? It isn't always easy to know, Bridges says. Like a cold, the flu can come with a cough or sore throat and a stuffy or runny nose. But unlike colds, the flu is also typically characterized by inflammation, headaches and achy muscles, along with a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Nausea and diarrhea are other common symptoms.
 
When Should I See a Doctor?

  • If you do have the flu, prescription antiviral medications like Tamiflu or Relenza can lessen the symptoms, which can also include:
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Pain in the abdomen or chest.
  • Dizziness.
  • A fever that spikes at 100 or above.
  • A seizure.

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