At a restaurant with a friend, everyone around you seems to be sneezing and coughing, not properly covering noses and mouths. You are hardly able to enjoy your meal. A few days later, that lunch buddy calls and says she tested positive for the flu. Oh no! What should you do?

Influenza, or more commonly called flu, is a viral respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. It can appear suddenly and cause mild to severe symptoms such as headaches, fever, muscle aches, sore throat, stuffy and runny nose, chills and in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea.

Not everyone with the flu will have a fever or all of these symptoms. These feelings can last a few days or up to two weeks. Avoiding crowds is one way to stay well, but most of us cannot live that way for long. You’ll be exposed to others at your job and daily routine. Here are five ways to help protect your health and prevent the flu virus from spreading:

  1. Disinfect your hands and the areas where you interact. Wash your hands regularly. This is especially important before preparing food and eating. The flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours so wiping down areas you’re exposed to before sitting or eating is a good practice.

  2. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose unless your hands are clean. Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Use a tissue for your nose, and throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands right after. Don’t use a handkerchief or cloth more than once without washing it. 3. Get the flu vaccination each year and obtain it early in the season. The flu virus changes from year to year, so you’ll need to update your vaccination annually. Keep in mind that the flu vaccine takes about two weeks to be effective so it’s better to get it early in the season.

  3. Boost your immunity year round. The best way to protect yourself against the flu and any virus is to take care of yourself all the time. Eat nutritious foods and avoid processed ingredients that negatively impact the body. Get plenty of sleep each day. Exercise regularly. Check with your doctor to see if you should consider taking a probiotic or supplement to help keep your immune system strong.

  4. See your doctor if you have any flu-like symptoms. If you feel you have any of the flu symptoms, such as fever, coughing, sore throat, body aches, runny nose and fatigue, contact your doctor. You may be prescribed an antiviral medication like Tamiflu to lessen your condition.

    Dr. Mitchell Whitehead, MD

When the Flu Leads to More Serious Concerns

Flu can sometimes lead to more serious conditions such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. According to the CDC, flu can also cause persistent pain and pressure in the chest, persistent dizziness and worsening of chronic medical conditions.

“Pay close attention to your body,” said Mitchell Whitehead, M.D., family medicine physician with Baptist Medical Group Primary Care – Airport. “If you wake up in the middle of the night or in the morning and feel really awful and have some or all of the flu-like symptoms, act fast and be seen by a doctor. Locate a caring physician who can get you back to feeling good again and ensure that the condition does not lead to something more serious like pneumonia or hospitalization.”

Take Care of You This Flu Season and Year Round

The flu virus can be dangerous, especially for the elderly, sick and those with any current medical conditions. Don’t panic if you’ve been exposed to it or think you may have it. Take the above listed preventative steps to protect yourself and reduce your risk.

For more information on flu or to make an appointment with a doctor, call Baptist Medical Group at 850.437.8600, make an appointment online at or visit