Why is the flu so bad this year?

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“Flu is everywhere in the U.S. right now,” Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza division, said during a Jan. 12 media briefing. On a map of the United States tracking flu activity, “this is the first year that we have had the entire continental U.S. be the same color,” he noted.

Only Hawaii and the District of Columbia have been spared widespread flu infection so far, according to the CDC.

Why is the flu so bad this year?

During each flu season, one or more specific types and strains of the influenza virus are responsible for causing the flu. When certain types and strains of the virus show up, it can make some flu seasons worse than others.

This flu season, H3N2 – a subtype of influenza A – has been the dominant strain. Health officials say we tend to see a worse flu season with more severe illness when H3 viruses are prominent. At this point, 80 percent of reported flu cases are this more severe strain, according to the CDC. The H3N2 strain combined with a long bout of cold, wintery weather has resulted in a very active flu season.

What about the flu shot?

While the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, it’s still the best protection against H3N2 flu and other flu strains, such as H1N1 and B viruses which have also shown up this season. And it’s not too late to get one! If you haven’t already gotten a flu shot, we recommend doing so as soon as possible (excluding children under 6 months).

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Is there anything else I can do to avoid the flu?

Washing or sanitizing your hands frequently can go a long way in preventing the flu. You should also take these general measures to reduce your risk:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may have respiratory infections.
  • Don’t share food, drinks or personal items (like lip balm) with anyone.
  • Don’t bite your nails or put your hands near your eyes, mouth or nose.
  • Wipe down surfaces with household disinfectant regularly.

If you do start to show symptoms, you can help others avoid getting infected by staying home from work or school.

More information

For more on the flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more healthy tips and medical information, continue to check in on the Denton Regional Urgent Care blog. At Denton Regional Urgent Care, we have physicians that are board-eligible in family medicine or emergency medicine. We offer convenient access to the expert care you need right when you need it, even after hours or on the weekend as well.

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.

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Four Low-Cost Ways to Pamper Yourself

Need a break? Instead of doing chores this weekend, pamper yourself—you’ve earned it. Here are a few simple ways to relax and recharge.

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Dip into a hobby

Hobbies are an excellent way to unwind, according to the American Institute of Stress. For instance, Tessa Morrell, an editorial manager in Nashville, Tenn., says art is her favorite way to relax.

“Creating art can be really therapeutic,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll just paint for the sake of painting with no direction or goal in mind.”

Read a book

Instead of watching TV or surfing the Internet, curl up with a book. The mental escape helps you forget your worries and keep your mind sharp. Like to talk about books? Join a book club to interact with others and discover new authors.

Spend time with friends

Remember how good it felt the last time you hung out with friends? If you can’t remember, you’re overdue for a reunion. Have lunch with a friend, invite people over for a game night or meet a pal at the mall for retail therapy.

“If I can get out of the house, a lunch date with girlfriends is always great,” says Jennifer Parker, a stay-at-home mother of two from Murfreesboro, Tenn.

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Take a hike

The wind in your hair, the sound of birds singing and the sight of spring blossoms make hiking a pleasure. As a bonus, the physical activity can relieve stress, improve mental function and make you feel better about yourself, according to the American Psychological Association. Double the fun by inviting a friend.

3 Ways to Improve Your Family’s Health

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We all want our kids to grow up strong, smart, happy and healthy. But sometimes, guarding your family’s health can seem like you’re playing nutritionist, coach, germ-fighter, nurse and psychologist all at once.

Here are three tips for improving your family’s health:

Tip 1: Take back the kitchen

Do you want to cook healthier? With some simple tweaks, you can lighten up regular recipes for brownies, casseroles and other tastytreats. Plan healthy meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner by learning about healthy food substitutions. For instance, you can sprinkle powdered sugar on cakes instead of using frosting. Reduce fat and calories in baked goods by cutting the fat ingredient such as butter or margarine by one-half and substituting a moist ingredient like applesauce, fat-free sour cream or orange juice. Search the web for more tips about healthy foods and in no time you will be cooking healthy recipes for you and your family.

Tip 2: Get up and move

Exercise benefits include low blood pressure, strong muscles, weight control and stress reduction. Walking, sports and aerobic classes are just a few of the exercises that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Tip 3: Develop relationships with your family’s healthcare providers

One of the most important decisions you will ever make — and you’ll probably make it more than once — is choosing the right doctor. Ask your friends, your coworkers and your neighbors who they like, and look for these names in the packet of options you get from your insurance provider. Make sure your doctor of choice has a healthy online reputation on common websites such as Vitals or Healthgrades.

Once you’ve picked your provider, get to know the entire office. Make an appointment to meet the office staff, nurses and provider. Ask questions about the style of care, availability and other important concerns you have.

These three tips can keep your family happy and healthy!

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This content originally appeared on the website of HCA partner sharecare.com.

This content originally appeared on Sharecare.com.

For more healthy tips and medical information, continue to check in on the Denton Regional Urgent Care blog. At Denton Regional Urgent Care, we have physicians that are board-eligible in family medicine or emergency medicine. We offer convenient access to the expert care you need right when you need it, even after hours or on the weekend as well.

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.