Every year we go through this.  And by this, I mean influenza season.  The flu.  Germ-infested schools, workplaces, daycare centers.  This year, it seems to be running a little more rampant.  Experts are saying the flu season is starting earlier than it has in 10 years, and the number of cases is staggering.  It's hard to call in sick to work, miss school, and pull the kids out of daycare.  But it's important that we do exactly those things when we're sick to prevent from spreading our illness to others.  Here are a few tips for handling flu season.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has a list of symptoms of "Seasonal Influenza."  It's important to recognize them--and know when to stay away from others.

Influenza Symptoms

Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

*The CDC also says that it's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Well, how does this flu spread, you ask? Well the answer is obvious to most. But not everyone, which is why we all seem to do such a great recycling it in commonplaces.

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. (Gross. Just gross.) These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. (Really, really gross.) Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

So how long should you stay away if you find out you have the flu? Well, you may pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

So how do you know how severe influenza is in your area?  Check out this website.  It's called "Flu Near U" and you can track the flu!

The best thing to do, is prevent the flu.  Which may seem obvious, but not until it's too late.  Experts say that you need a flu shot.  No excuses.  Yes, it's a needle.  Get over it.  Because a tiny prick is worth avoiding sore knees from kneeling in front of the toilet for three days.  And don't use the "I get the flu from the flu shot." Because you can't.  Sure, maybe you'll get a low grade fever, but you can't catch the flu from the vaccine because it contains a weakened or killed form of the virus.  Here are some other simple, common sense ways to prevent getting sick.

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap every time you shake hands or touch a surface that might be germ-covered.
  • Carry a hand sanitizer with you for times when a sink isn't available.
  • Bring along disinfectant wipes to clean any surfaces you're about to touch.
  • Take extra care to not touch your mouth, eyes, or nose without washing your hands first.

Yes, you may seem a little obsessive, and your hands will dry out, but it is better than the alternative.

I really hope all my coworkers read this.  I don't want to get sick.  (Knocking on wood right now...)