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Flu season is upon us, and if you’ve ever had the flu before, you understand why we’re approaching it with slight trepidation.
In fact, we’re not the only ones who are scared of the flu; it seems that every winter, the entire United States reaches the level of flu panic—and with good reason. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that last year, 25 million people in the U.S. suffered from flu-related illnesses, resulting in 11 million flu-associated medical visits.
If you’re not one of the 25 million people in the U.S. who suffered from the flu last year, you may be wondering, “What’s so bad about the flu? I mean, I get that no one likes being sick, but it’s not fatal or anything, it’s just a virus.”
If those words sound eerily familiar to your own thoughts, here are a few facts that may just put the fear of flu into you.
First of all, the flu can be fatal, especially to infants, young children, people with weakened immune systems, adults over the age of 65, and more.
The flu is nasty. Short for influenza, the flu is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system. Symptoms include fever, aching muscles, chills and sweats, headache, coughing, fatigue, weakness, nasal congestion, and sore throat - among others. What’s more, these symptoms can last for a few weeks, and there’s not much you can do about that. Unlike a bacterial infection, there is no antibiotics for it.
There are many different strains of the influenza virus, which means that even if you get a vaccination, you may not be protected.
The flu attacks everyone—regardless of race or gender.
Moreover, the flu is not like Chickenpox; if you get it this year, it doesn’t protect you from getting it year after year after year.
Scared yet? Good, now you can take appropriate measures to protect yourself!
We’re not talking about the flu vaccine—that’s a whole different discussion. We are, however, talking about flu and health apps, which were created in response to the populace’s angst by medical professionals and tech startups.
The purpose of so-called “flu apps” is to keep you abreast of current flu news and to give you as many tools as possible to keep yourself and your loved ones flu-free. Here, you’ll get an idea of what the different flu apps offer, and whether it’s worth it for you to use them or not.
While apps can’t prevent anyone from getting the flu, they can provide us with knowledge, quick access to doctors, and even save us money on prescription drugs.
The more you know about the flu, the more in control you’ll feel and the less you’ll fear.
Apps like Sickweather, FluView, Flu Defender, and Flu Near You give you the most up-to-date information about the flu in your area. You’ll be able to see if the flu is widespread, whether it’s hit your area or seems likely to come your way, what strains are active this year, and more.
If you think you have the flu, you can consult with a doctor for a reasonable price on apps like Doctor on Demand, HealthTap, and LiveHealth Online. If you prefer in-person visits with doctors, ZocDoc can find you local doctors who are available and schedule an appointment for you.
If you prefer to self-diagnose, WebMD has a symptom checker than you can use to see if your symptoms match up to those of the flu. Then you can self-prescribe bed rest and chicken soup.
While most people who get the flu are not recommended to take antiviral drugs, some people are: pregnant women, the elderly, people with asthma, and more. These people can use an app like GoodRx to get the best price on their prescription flu drugs. (In fact, anyone can use this app to get better prices on any prescription medication.)
For parents of young children, flu season can be its own special kind of hell. In some cases, the flu can last for weeks, and while there are over-the-counter drugs, these only treat the symptoms, they don’t actually cure the flu. And if antiviral drugs are prescribed (which they are not always), they also don’t provide a cure; they may, however, shorten the flu’s duration or prevent complications.
So not only do parents have to endure seeing their child suffer, but they may also have to take off from work or hire a babysitter for days, which is stressful enough in its own right. There’s also the very real possibility that siblings will catch the virus from each other, resulting in weeks and weeks of having a sick child at home.
And the cherry on top of this sickly flu sundae? Parents may catch the virus from their kids, and have to care for them while they themselves are sick as dogs!
Because parents of young children have extra reason to fear flu season, they also have extra reason to use a flu app (or apps). Any extra help that a parent can get to help ward of the flu is a lifesaver. And you won’t hear the kids complaining either!
Try as we may to prevent the flu, there are some things that are out of our control. Even if we get the vaccine, download all the apps, and take loads of Vitamin C, there is no guarantee that we’ll remain flu-free.
However, if we take advantage of the things that are in our control—like staying informed of flu outbreaks, being in touch with doctors, and saving time/money and thus minimizing stress—we’ll give ourselves and our families the best chance we have at staying healthy during flu season and year-round.