The flu season is upon us. In the United States, it occurs in the fall and winter with peak months running from late November through March. At the moment, 2018-2019 is being classified as moderate.
As always, a few simple precautions can reduce your risk of getting sick:
• Being in good health can protect you if the flu threatens. A healthy body means a strong immune system that fights off infection. Things you can do to maintain good health include eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting adequate sleep.
Get a Standard Flu Shot
• This year's flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses---the B/Victoria component was changed and the influenza A(H3N2) component was updated. While the vaccines won't guarantee protection, they will likely lessen the severity of the virus if you get it. It is also a precaution against the possibility of getting simultaneous infections with the common flu and a more serious flu strain. Lastly, it may help keep you from infecting others around you.
Free flu shots are available throughout the community, including at CVS.
Wash Your Hands Often
• Studies have shown that flu virus can survive on surfaces for 2-8 hours, which is why it is important to wash your hands regularly. Use soap and water or, when traveling or when water is scarce, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60%-90% alcohol) to help prevent the spread of infection of all kinds. Alcohol-based hand-sanitizers are actually better than soap and water at killing bacteria and viruses.
It is extremely important to wash your hands after touching your nose, mouth, or eyelids. Even when washing, avoid touching your mouth or eyes with your fingers. Use throw-away paper towels or dedicated cotton towels for each person.
Proper Respiratory Hygiene
• Cover your mouth and nose with tissue when you cough or sneeze. Discard used tissues immediately. If no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve (inner elbow).
If you are ill, stay home for 7 days after your symptoms begin or after you are symptom free for 24 hours.
When Providing Care to Others Wear Gloves and a Mask
• Consider wearing latex gloves when caring for someone with the flu (but still wash your hands). Latex-free gloves are available if you have a latex allergy. Wear a N95 face mask to protect yourself from inhaling airborne particles from the infected person's coughs and/or sneezes.
Be Careful About the Food You Consume
• Do not eat undercooked poultry or raw eggs. Thoroughly cooking poultry and eggs---and other types of meat---kills bacteria and viruses within those products.
If you or someone you know does get the flu, see a doctor and follow these Home Health Care Basics.
Written by Trish Christin, M.N., RN, CS, CEAP.
Edited by Mary Sue McClain COPE, Inc.
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