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Consumer Reports: Protect yourself and your family against the flu

News 13's Jay Siltzer spoke with Lisa Gill, prescription drugs editor for Consumer Reports, to discuss what people need to know about the flu and how to best protect yourself and your family. (Image credit: MGN Online/Consumer Reports)

The flu appears to be everywhere right now. Even if you don't have it, it's likely you know or work with someone who is sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the peak of flu season is yet to come.

In North Carolina, state health officials report 95 flu-related deaths this season, which began on Oct. 1.

News 13's Jay Siltzer spoke with Lisa Gill, prescription drugs editor for Consumer Reports, to discuss what people need to know about the flu and how to best protect yourself and your family.

One point Gill address was whether it's too late to get a flu shot. She said it's not. Despite concerns about the vaccine's effectiveness, Gill said it can reduce how badly you experience the flu and for how long.

"That is especially true for people with chronic conditions," she said.

When it comes to taking Tamiflu to prevent the flu or taking the drug once you fall ill, she said the antiviral can shorten the flu by about a day and reduce the risk of pneumonia and other complications--but only if it's taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Gill suggests to ask your doctor about Tamiflu or Relenza if you're:

  • 65 or older
  • Younger than 5
  • Pregnant or just had a baby
  • You have asthma, heart disease, or other chronic diseases

Gill also said do not ask your doctor for antibiotics, as they only work with bacterial infections and the flu is viral--so they won't help fight the flu.

Americans spent almost $3 billion on vitamins, herbal remedies and other supplements to fight colds and flu in 2016, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. Gill spoke about supplements like Echinacea and Vitamin C and their effectiveness.

"Even though they are rampant on the shelves, both of these supplements don't particularly work for the flu," Gill said. "In both cases, we recommend skipping them and doing tried and true methods of flu prevention."

Those methods include washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

If you do end up with the flu, Gill said one of the most important things you can do is stay home so you don't spread germs.

Staying hydrated is also key to your recovery. Gill also said chicken soup, whether it's out of a can or homemade, has real benefits like reducing inflammation that can cause aches and pains.


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