Influenza cases have increased nationwide in recent weeks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every state except Hawaii has reported widespread outbreaks of the flu, and the trend could continue for several more weeks.
So it's good to know how to prevent it, identify it and treat it. Consumer Reports has some tips to avoid getting sick and remedies to consider if you start feeling sick.
A very contagious strain of influenza type-A called H3N2 has been causing most of the cases of the flu in the U.S. and is associated with more hospitalizations and more deaths than other strains, according to the CDC.
People at high risk for flu complications includes people 65 or older, those with a compromised immune system or a chronic health condition like asthma, heart or lung disease and children under 5.
It is recommended they take an antiviral medication as soon as possible.
Make sure you get enough rest, keep hydrated, and if you have a fever, headache or body aches, opt for over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen.
Consumer Reports health experts say it is not too late this flu season to get the flu vaccine. It can lessen the risk of complications and being hospitalized if you do get the flu. Other ways to prevent getting the flu include washing your hands often with soap and water, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth to avoid transferring any virus you might have on your hands, covering your sneeze or cough into your elbow if you don’t have a tissue handy.
Also, use a humidifier to keep the humidity at 30 to 50 percent since the virus survives best in dry air.
Consumer Reports warns to avoid cough suppressants and antibiotics, which don't work for viral infections and can contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
See your doctor if your flu symptoms improve but then fever returns and your cough worsens, or if you experience difficulty breathing, pain in the chest or abdomen, and severe or persistent vomiting. This may be a sign of secondary infection.