Knowing how to prevent the flu in Arizona can help you protect yourself this winter, as well as your family and friends, health care workers and vulnerable members of our community. From getting your influenza vaccine to determining when you should stay home, here are some steps you can take to stay safe and avoid complications from the flu.
The Flu in Arizona
First, let’s put into perspective just how widespread and serious the flu can be in our state. On average, every year in Arizona:
- 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu
- More than 4,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications
- Nearly 700 people die from the flu
Get Your Flu Shot
The best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get your influenza vaccine each year. Recent studies show that flu shots reduce your risk of illness by up to 60%. But when is the best time to get your shot to ensure you receive maximum protection? In Arizona, October is ideal. Flu season usually lasts from October to May, and it takes a few weeks for immunity to develop. However, it’s never too late — you can still benefit from the vaccine after flu season starts.
Keep in mind that some demographics may be at higher risk of having complications from the flu and would significantly benefit from the vaccine. These groups of people include:
- Pregnant mothers
- Children and families
- People with chronic conditions and their caregivers
- Seniors (ages 65 and over) and their caregivers
Practice Healthy Habits
People who lead healthy lifestyles have well-nourished immune systems that know how to prevent the flu and fight it off. Multiple components have proven effective in influenza prevention, including:
Maintaining a diet that is rich in natural antioxidants, vitamins and minerals is crucial. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables — especially those that are dark green, red and yellow — as well as whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins and healthy fats.
Stress can take a massive toll on your immune system. Be sure you take some time out of your day to unwind and take care of yourself. Whether it’s a candlelit bath, meditation or watching your favorite TV show, find what works for you and stick to it.
Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and those who don’t reach this target are more likely to contract viruses. Our bodies make cytokines while we sleep, which create an immune response by targeting inflammation and infection. When we don’t get enough sleep, our immune systems weaken and become more susceptible to the flu.
Whether you’re trying to fight off the flu or prevent it, be sure to drink around 64 ounces (eight cups) of water or more every day.
Physical activity can increase blood flow and reduce stress and inflammation to minimize your chance of getting the flu. Exercise also boosts the function of your antibodies and white blood cells. Strive for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Know the Difference Between the Flu and COVID-19
The flu and COVID-19 share many of the same symptoms, like fever, chills and body aches. However, there are a few key differences. The main indicator is shortness of breath and a bad cough, which are far more common with the coronavirus. COVID-19 symptoms also tend to last much longer and can appear five to 10 days after your initial exposure to the virus. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between the two; however, we know COVID-19 is much more deadly. The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get tested for free at one of our many locations across the Valley.
If You Get the Flu
Even if you know how to prevent the flu and take preventive measures, you may still become sick. If you do come down with the virus, here’s what you should do:
- Stay home from work or school
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
- Cover your cough and sneeze
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Keep your distance from others in your household
When To Seek Emergency Care
The flu doesn’t usually require emergency attention, but it may be necessary if your symptoms become serious — especially if you fall into one of the high-risk groups mentioned above. Complications from the flu can lead to more severe conditions like pneumonia, so it’s important to seek emergency care if you experience any of the following:
- Pain or pressure in your chest
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sudden dizziness or intense nausea
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Confusion and/or disorientation
Otherwise, the flu is largely treatable with over-the-counter medication, rest and hydration. You can also visit your doctor to see if you would benefit from antiviral medications. Symptoms usually last anywhere from four to seven days. As long as you get your flu vaccine, practice healthy habits and know when to seek further care, you can avoid complications from the flu and enjoy a happy, healthy winter in Arizona.