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Give it a Shot!

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Give Flu its Due

Three strategies to stop sickness in its tracks

It's time to give flu the proper credit it deserves. In fact, according to family physician Nurit Crystal, MD, people treat the flu too casually. "Influenza is a pretty serious viral illness. It puts even the healthiest person down and out for a week or two," she says.

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Take 3" approach to fighting the flu, Dr. Crystal offers these quick tips.

Get a flu vaccine. Dr. Crystal recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone older than 6 months, especially pregnant women, those with chronic conditions and seniors 65 years and older. She offers a quick point/counterpoint to common flu myths.

I'll get sick from it. "This is a hard myth to break," Dr. Crystal says. "This is the time of year when people commonly get sick, but you do not get sick from the flu vaccine."

I don't need it. "Even if you are relatively healthy, the flu shot can help protect others who are high-risk," she says.

December is too late to get it. "We see flu all the way into April and May," she says, noting that December, January and even February flu shots offer protective benefits.

Use everyday preventive strategies to stop germs. To prevent the flu, Dr. Crystal recommends that you:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

If you're the one who's sick, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. "If you think you're toughing it out at work, you're really just getting other people sick."

Take flu antiviral drugs if prescribed. If you suspect the flu bug has bitten you, see your doctor within the first 48 hours of onset of symptoms, which include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people experience vomiting and diarrhea.

"The common cold goes away by itself. For influenza, we use antivirals that can shorten the time you are sick," she says.

Nurit Crystal, MD

Nurit Crystal, MD

Family Practitioner at NCH

  • Board certification: American Board of Family Practice
  • Undergraduate degree: Northwestern University
  • Doctor of Medicine degree: Northwestern University Medical School
  • Residency: Family Practice, UCLA Medical Center

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Last Updated 04/10/2009