Influenza cases have increased nationwide in recent weeks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all U.S. states except Hawaii have 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.
Dr. Hilda Roque-Dieguez said, "This year I already have two patients in the hospital with the Influenza A, actually."
People at high risk for flu complications include people 65 or older, those with a compromised immune system or a chronic health condition like asthma, heart or lung disease and children under five. It is recommended they take an antiviral medication as soon as possible.
"The sooner that you fight it, the sooner that it works, later on, it lingers and it takes longer to work because the virus is already built up."
For those not at high risk for complications, getting enough rest and staying hydrated should be enough to fight the flu. 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.
Dr. Orly Avitzur said, "It can lessen the risk of complications and being hospitalized if you do get the flu."
Other ways to prevent getting the flu, use a humidifier to keep the humidity at 30 to 50 percent since the virus survives best in dry air. Wash your hands often with soap and water.
"Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth to avoid transferring any virus you might have on your hands. Cover your sneeze or cough into your elbow if you don't have a tissue handy," Dr. Avtizur said.
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 such as pneumonia.
There are still a few months left until the end of the flu season and outbreaks have already been reported nationwide. And the number of cases will likely increase.
It's good to know what you can do to help avoid getting sick or treating it if you do get it. Consumer Reports has some tips that may help make those flu symptoms more