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As holiday season nears, some tips to deal with flu

The flu season is no longer on its way. It's here. And it's going strong.

It's too early to know just how nasty this year's season will be, but a quick look back to last year's statistics will serve as an effective reminder of what could lie ahead.

The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2018, the flu sickened 40 million Americans and killed 60,000.

Recently, an infectious disease expert weighed in with tips worth noting for dealing with the flu season.

Greg Frank, Ph.D and director of infectious disease policy at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, encourages everyone to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. Even though October is the best time, it's never too late. The vaccine takes around two weeks to become fully effective.

Each year, Frank said, the flu shot prevents up to 6.7 million influenza cases, 87,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths. It also helps make the flu less severe for those who do catch it.

If you do catch the flu, Frank suggests you remember your mother's advice. "Drink lots of fluids. Juice, Gatorade, herbal teas and chicken soup can help fight dehydration. Menthol ointments and humidifiers break up mucus and make it easier to breath," he said.

It's also worth remembering that antibiotics won't help. The flu is caused by a virus. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections and are useless against viruses, Frank said. What's more, overuse of antibiotics accelerates the spread of drug-resistant bacteria which already kill over 160,000 Americans every year.

The flu season can be long and hard. It can come early, or late. It’s never too late to be vaccinated, and it’s wise to be aware of prevention and treatment techniques of all kinds. Staying healthy is a wise pursuit for you and those around you.

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