Flu season is upon us.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reports three deaths and 71 hospitalizations since September, most occurring among ages five and under and over 65.

“It is important to stay home from holiday gatherings if you have symptoms of influenza,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley explained.

Symptoms of flu include fever, chills, body aches, cough or sore throat. Pregnant women, young children and the elderly are all at elevated risk. People with health conditions that compromise their immune systems are also at higher risk of complications due to catching the flu.

Benjamin Franklin’s old quote, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” may have been referring to fire safety, but it applies to health as well.

OSDH recommends using tissues to cover coughs and sneezes, and washing hands frequently with soap and water. Also adopting a healthy lifestyle by getting a full night’s rest., exercising regularly, and eating nutritious foods.

Cynthia L. Plummer, RN, MSN of Food For A Healthier Life on Main Street said it is important to make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“The fresh fruits and vegetables have antioxidants that help get rid of abnormal cells and just keep your immune system stronger. So focus on that. If you can’t do fresh, do frozen, if you can’t do frozen do canned, but the fresher the better,” Plummer stressed.

While the OSDH strongly suggests a flu shot for prevention, Plummer cautioned people especially with allergy to eggs should not get the vaccine.

The CDC website states, “A previous severe allergic reaction to flu vaccine, regardless of the component suspected of being responsible for the reaction, is a contraindication to future receipt of the vaccine.”

If you are one of the few who cannot have the flu vaccine or just wish for an alternative, Plummer offered some options. She said each year is a little bit different. Last year elderberry really helped people.

Plummer explained, elderberry is antiviral. “That’s why it helps with colds and flu. I have people who take it year round for allergies. But it has that added benefit of being antiviral… It’s a natural antihistamine, so if you are just a little bit congested you can take elderberry and it will shrink down that swollen tissue in your nose.” ”

Plummer said there are a lot of natural remedies which are antiviral.

The OSDH says, “It is important for those experiencing flu-like symptoms to consult with a health care provider as soon as possible.”

They stressed that antiviral treatments work better when they are started within 48 hours of noticing symptoms.