Feel flu symptoms? Reach for the vitamin C

Vitamin C is flowing like Champagne here at the offices of The Lakeville Journal, where it seems that everyone has some kind of late winter illness of one kind or another.I always assume the flu has run its course by this time of year, but apparently I am wrong. The Centers for Disease Control has a banner on its web page warning that the flu season is raging through the U.S. at full steam.“The 2011-2012 flu season began late and was mild compared to previous seasons,” according to the site, but “the 2012-2013 flu season started early and is hitting hard — especially people who are age 65 or older. People in this age group are most likely to get seriously ill, be hospitalized, and die from flu. In addition, this year’s predominant flu virus is influenza A (H3N2), which can cause more serious illness compared to other subtypes.”The site urges anyone 6 months or older to get a flu shot. Even though it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to settle into your system, it’s not too late and it’s worth the effort. The CDC says that “early estimates published in January found that people who got this season’s vaccine were about 60 percent less likely to get the flu and have to see a doctor.” If you don’t want to get vaccinated, there are things you can do to help protect yourself. Personally, I like to dose myself with zinc tablets and powdered vitamin C. There isn’t conclusive proof that they help, but I feel like they work.The CDC and other health organizations strongly promote frequent handwashing and lots of hand sanitizer as ways to stay healthy. Don’t delay if you think you have some flu symptoms. The CDC promises that prescription medications can indeed help cure you. They also promise that taking meds can help you avoid “serious complications” such as death. “Antiviral drugs work best when started as soon as possible after symptoms develop,” according to the CDC. “This means people with flu-like symptoms — especially [those in] high-risk groups such as seniors — should seek medical care ASAP.”There is always a lot of confusion about what qualifies as flu and what is simply a cold. The CDC agrees that it’s hard to differentiate them. “Cold symptoms usually include a stuffy and/or runny nose, sore throat and sneezing,” the agency’s website explains. “Flu symptoms, on the other hand, usually involve fever (although not always), chills, headache, moderate-to-severe body aches and tiredness. Flu symptoms can come on rapidly, sometimes in just a few hours.”Whether it’s the flu or just a cold, one thing to keep in mind is that, when possible, it’s good to stay home in bed — if for no other reason than that you will expose fewer people to any germs you might have.

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