How to Prevent Catching the Flu
By Marti Kessack, PhD(c), MSN/Ed, RN
In early January, 2013, Forbes.com reported the flu had arrived nearly five weeks ahead of season, and was already active in over 41 states. Unfortunately 18 child deaths were reported. The numbers rose to at least 47 states and 20 deaths of children under 18 years old. “Eight Chicago area hospitals turned away ambulances in a single night as they dealt with patients,” rang another report.
The 2013 flu season brang back memories of emergency room nursing experiences in my past. I remember flu seasons when the hospital ran out of saline IV bags due to high admissions of flu sufferers to the ER. We even ran out of beds and were forced to line patients along hallways in wheelchairs. It amazes me that such a small microscopic germ can be so devastating to patients, hospital staff and on healthcare resources. Those most vulnerable to the virus include young children and babies, pregnant women, the elderly, chronic illness sufferers (especially those with respiratory dysfunction) and anyone requiring immune-suppressant medications.
Tips for Minimizing Exposure to Flu
When the flu hits, it can hit hard and rapidly. The good news is that practicing the following precautions recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), can help to minimize your exposure can prevent you from contracting the flu:
- Take good care of yourself. During flu season, intentionally get more rest, eat nutritiously and drink lots of fluids such as juice and water to stay hydrated. This also keeps your immune system in top shape. Performing moderate exercise also bolsters the immune system. Make sure your intake of sugar decreases; university studies have shown that sugar suppresses the immune system for up to eight hours.
- Be aware of potential “hot zones.” Avoid close exposure to people and places – for instance, crowded elevators, airplanes and public gyms – where the exchange of or the exposure to secretions can occur. Toddlers should be monitored when sharing their toys and toys should be cleaned often, as well.
- Keep hands clean. If you need to sneeze or cough in public, do so inside your arm at the elbow, or into a tissue. Then, immediately dispose of tissue and wash hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizers containing greater than 60 percent alcohol are also effective sanitizing agents.
- Use medication, when needed. Antiviral medications are proven effective when symptoms have only been present for 48 hours or less. Tamiflu, which is in short supply in many areas, is effective against Influenza A and B and has been approved for infants two weeks of age and older. Of course, see your pediatrician to determine whether it’s safe for your child and determine proper dosage.
- Take a sick day, or two. Most importantly, if you feel ill and have symptoms of headache, fever, coughing, sneezing, or muscle aches, stay home and rest! If you are ill and your symptoms worsen, or if you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or persistent vomiting, seek medical attention immediately.
In the meantime, take great care of your health!
Marti Kessack, PhD(c), MSN/Ed, RN, has served more than 26 years in the nursing field, specializing in Emergency and Oncology nursing for most of her career. She earned a B.S. in Nursing from Wright State University and an M.S. in Nursing Education from Walden University. She currently serves as an instructor for the graduate and doctoral orthopedic physician’s assistant program at the University of Saint Augustine, and as adjunct nursing instructor and faculty at Colorado Technical University.
Image credit: Flickr/William Brawley