Can the Weather Forecast also Predict Flu Season?
According to a recent study out of Sweden’s Sahlgrenska University Hospital, there may be a direct correlation between winter’s first drop in temperature and the start of flu season.
After assessing 20,000 virus samples and comparing them to weather trends, over the course of three seasons, researchers have concluded that the first flu outbreak of the season will likely begin one week after temperatures have dropped below 37 degrees Fahrenheit (or zero degrees Celsius).
Researchers reported that the particles in the air that carry the flu virus remain airborne longer when the air is very dry and cold. This type of weather also causes other viruses that can lead to respiratory tract infections to spread more easily. Once the flu epidemic starts, it continues regardless of the temperature outside. Once people contract the flu, they are contagious and the illness spreads.
The study did note that while there is a direct relation between the weather and the start of flu season, it has yet to be confirmed whether one causes the other.
Why is this information useful?
Being able to predict the start of flu season is of great benefit to companies who host flu clinics and vaccination campaigns, enabling them to time their campaigns accordingly for maximum effectiveness. This information can also better equip doctor’s offices and hospitals in preparation for an influx of patients seeking medical attention.
The best way to protect yourself against the flu
You can’t really avoid people through flu season! So the best way to avoid the flu is to wash your hands often, especially before eating and after getting home from public spaces. Be sure to cough and sneeze into your arm, not your hand, to help prevent the spread of your own germs. And get vaccinated, especially if you are among the risk groups (i.e. the elderly, pregnant women, young children, people with health conditions, people living/working with the elderly or young children). Speak to your doctor about getting vaccinated.
How to tell the difference between a cold and the flu
Both a cold and the flu can cause a runny or stuffy nose, cough, sneezing and a sore throat. A cold affects your nose and throat while the flu affects your lungs and can often be felt throughout your body. Flu symptoms are much more severe and usually includes the sudden appearance of a fever, muscle aches, headache and loss of appetite. These are not symptoms of the common cold. If you suspect you may have the flu, avoid contact with other people until your symptoms have subsided. If you are a person at high risk of flu-related complications, call your health care provider immediately.