Preventing the Flu

Jan 11, 2018

By Barret Procyshyn

Cold winter weather is not much fun. Getting the flu on top of things is even less fun. Fever, severe cough, sweats, chills, sore throat, headache and body aches are all part of the flu's wonderful symptoms. Respiratory influenza is a contagious infection which affects your whole body including your nose, throat and lungs. You will probably feel like you got hit by a Zamboni, and there is not much you can do once you get it. Those with chronic diseases like asthma, COPD, diabetes or those over the age of 65 are much more likely to have serious complications. This can include hospital admissions and sometimes even death. There are some very important steps you can follow to reduce your risk of a minor or even major case of the flu this season. Most importantly the following steps can significantly reduce the risk of you transferring a virus to a loved one who may be more susceptible to contracting the flu.

Get the flu shot!

No matter what you read on Facebook the best way to prevent the flu and to prevent the spread of flu to loved ones is to get the flu shot. The flu shot covers major strains health organizations think will be prominent in the upcoming flu year. This year the flu shot has some, but not great protection from the most common flu viruses. This is because the virus has mutated over the last few months. However, I do want to stress the vaccine does have some protection and does protect against H1N1.

Aside from getting the flu shot there are some other measures you can take to limit your risk of contracting a serious case of flu this winter.

Wash your hands!

The most common way to catch the flu is to touch your own eyes, nose or mouth with germy hands. So keep your hands clean and away from your face. The problem is we do not do a good job of this. In fact, data from health and patient safety studies shows only 40% of health care workers properly follow hand washing guidelines. This is not a good statistic! To properly wash the hands, rinse hands with warm running water, then add soap to palms and rub hands together to create lather. Make sure you thoroughly cover and scrub all the surfaces of your hands, fingers and nails for 15 to 20 seconds. Next rinse under warm running water and dry the hands thoroughly with a single-use towel or hand dryer. Do not forget turn off the tap and open the door with a clean paper towel. When soap and water are not available hand sanitizer can do the job. Take a "nickel" sized amount of alcohol-based hand rub and rub it on your fingertips, both sides of your hands and between your fingers. Keeping rubbing until your hands are dry.

Get help if you get the flu!

You should get medical attention if you develop flu symptoms. The Dauphin Medical Clinic offers walk in services between 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday and 9:00am to 12:00pm on Saturdays. Your doctor will decide if you need medication to treat the virus. In special cases antivirals can be effective in reducing the severity of the flu and the duration of the disease. However, we do try to limit their use to prevent the development of resistance. If you believe your illness is minor, such as a common cold, you are likely better to fight off the illness at home.

Keep your distance!

Help prevent other people from catching your flu. Stay home from work, school and public places when you are sick. You can still spread germs up to seven days after becoming sick so make sure you keep that in mind.

Making healthy choices will also decrease your chances of getting the flu. Make sure you dress properly when going outdoors, eat a well-balanced diet and consider quitting smoking. Remember to take your medications regularly and keep chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes as controlled as possible. If you have questions about the flu speak to your clinic pharmacist.

 


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