Yes, the flu season is really bad this year. No, it's not entirely due to "people use too much Purell nowadays" or whining about what's probably just a cold, either. The CDC reports that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from "flu-related complications" every year. Sometimes, especially in the winter, people will use the word "flu" to describe any condition they want, but this is not the flu's fault and you should not blame it.

We do not want you to be one of those hospitalized people; we want you to be here, pointing out typos in the comments, for years to come. With that in mind, here are a few strategies to help you fight off the flu:

  • Get vaccinated. Did you already get vaccinated? Good. Are you planning on getting around to it? Do it now. It's not a guarantee you won't get sick, but it's better than exactly everything else out there. You can get one at pretty much any pharmacy. If you have ideological problems with Walgreen's, put them aside for a minute. I understand. It's hard. Resisting capitalism can wait, though. Buy yourself some Burt's Bees while you're there. It'll help.
  • Reconsider going to the doctor unless you're having trouble breathing, become dehydrated or experience complications (seriously high fever, pneumonia- or bronchitis-like symptoms). There's not much a doctor can do to treat the flu; you're going to feel like a murder victim for a week, maybe two. The only thing heading to the urgent care center with "but I feel really bad and I don't want to" will do is increase patient wait time for people who really need medical attention and spread germs. Go back home. Stay in bed.
  • If you do go to the doctor, be polite to every health care provider you encounter, from the receptionist to the nurse who takes your blood pressure. They are not withholding a magical flu drug from you (and Tamiflu is definitely not worth the trip). They are doing their best, and they are exhausted. They're sorry about the size of the bill you're going to get in the mail in five weeks, too.
  • If you truly can't stay home because you don't have sick days and/or your job doesn't provide you with health insurance, please accept my sincere apologies for our broken system that is failing you.
  • Do you really need us to remind you to drink fluids? This seems like an absurd thing to tell you. You're not going to forget to push liquids over your larynx, right? Liquids: ingest them, that's the official Gawker policy.

The following substances are not at all effective in treating or preventing the flu:

  • Chinese herbal medicines
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
  • Echinacea
  • Elderberry
  • Green tea
  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
  • North American ginseng
  • Oscillococcinum
  • Pomegranate extract
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D

Sadly, the Journal of the American Medical Association has rejected for publication your peer-reviewed study of "that one time I thought I might be getting sick and then I drank a lot of herbal tea and chewed like four things of Emergen-C and then I didn't get sick. Maybe there's something there you could use, I don't know." Stay safe out there.

[Image via AP]