Settling in on this third week of September, I find myself hearing a lot about the flu already.

Settling in on this third week of September, I find myself hearing a lot about the flu already. Friends are sick, friends' kids are not feeling well, co-workers are missing work for flu-like symptoms, it seems early in the year for the flu, but it appears the first round of this virus has already made it's way to Neosho. Let's look at some tips, perhaps a little earlier than usual, to help prevent ourselves and others from this seasonal virus.

According to influenza, or commonly known as the flu, is "an infection that causes a variety of symptoms including fever, chills, cough, body aches, headaches, and sometimes earaches or sinus problems." The flu is a virus that is so small it can only be seen through a strong microscope.

Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between having a common cold and having the flu. They are both contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract. A lot of times the symptoms for both of these viruses are similar, but the flu virus is much worse, sometimes finding it hard to even get out of bed.
The flu virus is spread from person to person and typically sweeps through large groups of people who spend time in close contact. Daycare, school classrooms, college dormitories, offices, and nursing homes are just a few examples of close contact environments where the virus could spread very quickly.

An article on shares that "the flu is spread when you inhale droplets in the air that contain the flu virus, make direct contact with respiratory secretions through sharing drinks or utensils, or handle items contaminated by an infected person." If one has the flu virus on their skin, this can infect you when touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

To help prevent getting the flu virus, help protect yourself and others with these helpful tips from the Center of Disease Control (CDC). Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and discard of the tissue after use. Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol based hand rub, especially before eating. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as this is how germs are spread. Stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except when going to the doctor or in other necessity situations.

The CDC recommends that children 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the current seasons vaccines are available. There are two options for getting a flu vaccine. The flu-shot is an inactivated vaccine that is given with a needle usually in the arm. Children 6 months of age and older can get this vaccine. The nasal-spray flu vaccine or sometimes called the "flu-mist" is a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that is given as a nasal spray. People ages 2 through 49 including women who are not pregnant can get this vaccine.

It is important that if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms to see your doctor, as he or she may prescribe medication that will get you feeling better sooner. If you would like more information on flu vaccines visit with your doctor or pharmacist.

Remember to practice these simple preventative tips to stay as healthy as possible this flu season.

Sarah Sonis is program director for the Freeman Southwest Family YMCA.