Influenza can spread rapidly this time of year, usually when people cough or sneeze near one year. It spreads through the air, and also by contact – either directly or indirectly.
Jill Andrea, Spooner Health’s Director of Quality, explains how it usually happens. “Someone who’s already infected coughs or sneezes. Then you touch a surface where there’s a small trace of fluid from their mouth or nose. It might be almost microscopic droplets. Later, before you’ve washed your hands, you touch your own mouth or nose – something you do hundreds of times a day without even thinking about it. Just like that, you’re infected.”
Flu symptoms vary; they typically include cough, fever, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and occasionally nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Jill says the best way to prevent the flu from biting you is to get a flu vaccine. Although it’s never too late in the season to get vaccinated, the earlier the better. One shot will last the entire flu season.
“The second-best way to prevent the flu,” says Jill, “is to wash your hands thoroughly and often. I can’t stress that enough.” During flu season, door handles and other common objects can harbor the virus, so excellent hand hygiene is a must.
Jill recommends that you wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before you eat and before you touch your nose, eyes, or mouth. She says it’s best to wash your hands and rub them together briskly under running water for at least 20 seconds. (That may seem like a long time, and it is. But that’s what it takes.) If someone in your home has the flu, make sure they use a separate hand towel to dry their hands on until they’re no longer ill.
Jill also offered these additional tips for avoiding the flu:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away, and then wash your hands.
- Avoid close contact with sick people. If someone is coughing at work, try and stay three to six feet away from them. Avoid crowded areas.
- If you do become ill, continue to take your prescription medication and contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without taking medication like Acetaminophen to get rid of your fever).
Finally, Jill pointed out that flu season is one more reason to stop smoking. Influenza is a respiratory illness that can lead to more serious complications for those people who smoke. In addition, do what you can to stay active, manage stress, eat right, and drink plenty of water.