It’s officially flu season in Calhoun County — and it looks like it will be a bad one. This year’s flu shot is not as effective as in years past, so it’s more important than ever to take additional steps to protect yourself and others from the flu virus.
AVOIDING FLU GERMS
1. Stay away from sick people.
2. Wash your hands. A lot. There is a right way and a wrong way to do this. See “The Right Way to Wash Your Hands.”
3. If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a clean tissue, then immediately put the tissue in the trash. Even better, cough into your upper sleeve or the crook of your elbow.
4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. That’s how the flu germ spreads.
5. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that get touched a lot by different people, such as doorknobs, light switches, cabinet handles, faucet handles, phones and computer keyboards.
6. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
7. Drink plenty of water.
8. Get some exercise.
9. Get plenty of sleep.
THE RIGHT WAY TO WASH YOUR HANDS
1. Wet your hands with warm water.
2. Apply a generous amount of soap.
3. Rub hands together for 20 seconds — about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
• You should wash your hands before eating, drinking or brushing your teeth.
• You should wash after going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, or coming in from school or shopping.
• If you are in a public bathroom, pull out paper towels before you wash your hands, so you don’t have to touch the towel dispenser after you’ve scrubbed up. After drying your hands, use the paper towels to turn off the faucet and turn the door handle.
• Soap and water is best, but hand sanitizers are good if there’s not a sink available. You want a sanitizer that contains at least 62 percent alcohol. The right way to use it: Apply sanitizer to the palm of one hand and then rub hands together, covering every inch of hands and fingers. Rub until hands are dry — about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice
• Fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), though not everyone with the flu has a fever.
• Cough or sore throat.
• Runny or stuffy nose.
• Muscle aches.
• Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea (most common in children).
If you get the flu, antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu can help you feel better and get well faster, and can help prevent serious complications.
These drugs are available by prescription only, so you will have to go to a doctor’s office and get a flu test (usually done by swiping inside your nose with a swab).
These medicines work best if started within two days of getting sick, but can still be helpful if started after that.
Antibiotics will not help with the flu. Don’t bother asking for them.
For a natural remedy, some studies have shown that elderberry extract — specifically, an over-the-counter product called Sambucol — can help reduce the duration of the flu.
SHOULD YOU GO TO WORK?
If you just have a sore throat and a little congestion, you likely just have a cold and are safe to go to work or school (as long as you promise to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands a lot).
However, if you have a fever over 100.5 and are achy all over, stay home. Please. For all our sakes. You are contagious. The rest of us do not want what you have.
The same goes for children. Do not send children to school with any symptoms of the flu. Have a contingency child care plan in place.
Stay home from work or school until your fever has been gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
SOURCES: The Mayo Clinic, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service.