Why Is The Flu So Bad This Year? Experts Break Down Exactly What You Need To Know

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If you’re not from an area that has experienced flu season in full force, you’re probably confused over the epidemic that’s been plaguing the U.S. for the past few months. Contrary to popular belief, influenza isn't just a heinous cold; it’s a viral infection that, if untreated, can be fatal. The main reason why the flu is so bad this year is because the disease is always changing, and there are some strains that are easier to ward off than others.

According to Dr. Ian Tong, chief medical officer at Doctor On Demand, 2018 is the year of the H3N2 strain, a type of flu that brings on severe symptoms that can be difficult to treat. Normally, the likeliness of someone dying from the flu is only a heightened concern in the elderly and in small infants, but this year, there have been reports of preteen deaths, and unusual fatalities in 20-somethings.

This is exactly why strains of the flu matter. “H3N2 is known to have higher rates of mortality in children,” Dr. Tong tells Elite Daily, adding there's always a risk for “those under five years of age, those with other medical conditions, and those with bacterial co-infection.” In other words, the weaker the body, the higher the fatality risk.

So, how can we protect ourselves from the flu?

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The flu is definitely not something to be messed with, which means taking the necessary precautions to ensure you're at your optimal health is mandatory. As I’ve said many, many times before, your health is not a gamble. Granted, I know taking the time to be extra mindful of germs, to diligently wash your hands, and even to brush your teeth, can all sound super tedious. But now more than ever, it’s vital to your well-being to really pay attention to the world around you and adopt these habits into your routine.

Francis Gonzales, assistant director of nursing at Upper East Side Rehabilitation Center in Manhattan, believes that 20-somethings may be more prone to catching the flu because of — surprise — their unyielding addiction to technology preventing them from getting enough sleep and rest in general.

“The lack of rest and sleep really takes its toll on the body,” Gonzales tells Elite Daily. “If you are tired and stressed, the body is more at risk of getting sick.” For the record, science has concluded that millennials are more likely to be perfectionists and stress themselves out more than any other generation. While this might play up to our strengths in some cases, this is definitely not one of them.

At this point, it may not be such an outrageous idea to seriously consider investing in some sort of face mask to wear in public settings, like when you're walking to work on a crowded sidewalk. Dr. Tong tells Elite Daily that even though there are no definitive studies suggesting this strategy is 100 percent germ-proof, it’s worth the extra shield when everyone around you is coughing and sniffling. “Offering a tissue or hand sanitizer,” he adds, “may also prevent the spread [of germs].”

If you start to experience flu-like symptoms, there are ways to ward off the infection before it spreads.

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Although this strain of the flu is more severe than strains we’ve experienced in the past, it's important to note that not every case is going to end in a fatality, so don’t automatically panic if you start to see symptoms. Familiarize yourself with the possible red flags (high fever, chills, fatigue, headache, etc.), and don't hesitate to make an appointment with your physician. If your doctor does diagnose you with the flu, there are plenty of ways to tackle the infection early on to ensure you recovery quickly and efficiently.

The earlier you treat your symptoms, the easier it will be to prevent the virus from spreading. At the first sign of flu symptoms, though, the best advice I, or any medical professional, can give is to stay home from work or school so you can a) rest, b) prevent further exposure to germs, and c) prevent spreading the disease to other people. That’s sort of a no-brainer, right?

From there, the next tip would be to actually rest — which, again, sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re anything like me, the temptation to clean the house or even do a little bit of yoga when you’re under the weather but not completely suffering, is very much a real struggle. However, this is not the time to be superhuman and assume you can defy science and beat the flu with your hands tied behind your back. Lay down, turn on some Netflix, and fall asleep in front of the TV.

According to Dr. Tong, the first 24 hours of the virus is the most telling, so you want to sleep as much as possible in that time, drink plenty of fluids, stay in warm environments, and take some kind of over-the-counter pain-reliever like ibuprofen to treat symptoms like fever, aches, and sinus pain. If you don't see an improvement after a day or so, “you may want to consult a doctor immediately,” he warns.

Bottom line, friends: Get vaccinated, wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and the second you feel sickly, stay home and rest. It is always better to be safe than sorry. These days, it may even save your life.