LIVINGSTON, NJ – With the increase in flu activity this season, the Livingston Health Department would like to share some information with our residents about the flu and how to avoid getting sick. 

The flu is a respiratory virus that can either be mild or severe. While most people recover from the flu within a few days, it can lead to complications in others such as pneumonia and ear infections.  Symptoms of the flu can range from a runny nose, cough, sore throat, body aches, fever, fatigue and in some cases vomiting as well as diarrhea.

It can be difficult to determine if symptoms may be caused by the flu or a cold, although colds tend to be milder. There are diagnostic tests available that can help determine if the flu is the cause of illness.  Anyone can get the flu year round, although flu activity tends to be the highest from December-March. 

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There are several measures that you can take that can help prevent you from getting the flu.

Make sure that you wash your hands well with soap and water, which will help remove the germs on your hands. When you are scrubbing your hands with soap, you should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. You may also use hand sanitizers and carry them with you in the event you are unable to wash your hands.

Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes, which can allow for the germs on your hands to enter into your body which can make you sick. 

Disinfecting surfaces like doorknobs, counter tops, computer keyboards, phones and shopping carts can also help prevent you from getting sick.  Avoid sharing drinks, toothpaste tubes, eating utensils and chapsticks with others. 

Practice good health habits as well, which include eating a balanced diet, exercising, getting enough sleep and managing stress.

If you know someone who is sick, try to avoid contact with them as much as possible. Those who are sick with the flu are generally contagious beginning one day before their symptoms begin and for approximately one week after their symptoms began.

Getting a flu vaccine can help lower your risk of getting the flu, although it takes about two weeks after getting a flu vaccine to develop immunity. Those who get a flu vaccine may still get the flu; however, they may only get a milder case and might not experience complications from the flu due to the protection the vaccine provides. 

It is recommended those who are six months and older get a flu vaccine prior to the end of October, but you can still get the vaccine later in the season, which can offer you protection. 

If you do get a cold or the flu, stay away from other people as much as you can to prevent spreading germs to others. If you think you may have the flu, contact your doctor, who may be able to prescribe antiviral medications that can help with treating the flu.

Be sure to cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use your elbow, since it is believed the flu spreads through tiny droplets. If you have a fever, stay home until 24 hours after your fever has gone away without antibiotics. 

For more information about the flu, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu