Along with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, there is also the added stress of it being cold and flu season. Being at the malls, the coffee shops and social gatherings puts us in close contact with others and increases our exposure to these viruses that can make us ill. Nobody wants to spend the holidays under the weather. So, what can we do to reduce our risk of getting the flu? And, how do we know if we actually have the flu or is it cold?
Flu Season: Fighting Against the Influenza Virus
According to the CDC, these actions can help reduce your chance of contracting the influenza virus:
Get Your Flu Shot
Getting your seasonal flu shot can reduce your chance of coming down with the flu. The common flu vaccine is inactivated, meaning it does not contain the live flu virus. You cannot get the flu from the vaccine. Note: most people tend to wait until the middle of cold and flu season to get their shot. It takes TWO WEEKS to become protected after the vaccine, so sometimes during this time, it is possible to be exposed to the flu and get sick. The flu shot also does NOT protect you from the 240 cold viruses out there. The best strategy is to get vaccinated as soon as it becomes available, typically in August/September. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older to get vaccinated. This is especially true with the very young and old, smokers and people with chronic illnesses such as cancer, asthma or immune disorders.
Wash Your Hands
It sounds so simple, but many people forget this. Using soap and warm water and washing for 30 seconds can help to kill most germs. If you have trouble keeping track of how long it’s been when scrubbing, sing Happy Birthday to yourself twice. Alcohol-based sanitizers can be helpful but can dry out your skin. And remember to wash often. Door handles, shopping carts, money, cell phones, remote controls are all germ vectors. Try to wash those hands or hand sanitize after touching or handling all of these.
Avoid Touching Your Face
It is great to wash your hands but it is also important to remember to not touch your eyes, nose and mouth. People touch their face more often than they realize and this is how we tend to get sick.
Cover Your Cough
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough OR cough into your upper sleeve. Most importantly though do NOT use your hands to cough or sneeze into. Tissues are the best, and it’s always a good idea to keep some available in your pocket/purse. Toss tissue away after use.
Avoid Contact With Sick People
If you or your child have flu-like symptoms, STAY HOME! The flu is spread through the air with the microscopic droplets that come out after coughing and sneezing. So if you do this at work or send a child to school, one cough or sneeze will expose everyone in close contact to the illness. In this instance, SHARING IS NOT CARING.
Visit Your Healthcare Provider ASAP
There is no cure for the flu, but there are anti-viral medications available that can help reduce your symptoms and speed recovery time. But they are most effective when started within 48 hours of your symptoms starting. If you develop the following symptoms: cough, fatigue, high fever, muscle aches, abruptly stop and think that you may have the flu. Go to your healthcare provider IMMEDIATELY to get tested and begin treatment if indicated.
Get Your Flu Shot
Are you ready to get your flu shot ? Come into the Oakland Park Wellness Center where you can get your flu shot for just $35. They vaccinate 18 months and older.
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About the Authors
Kim Kodzik and her wife have lived in Oakland Park/Wilton Manors area for 9 years. Kim raised two sons who now attend FAU (GO OWLS!), her alma mater. She earned her Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Nursing at FAU and brings over 27 years of experience to the clinic.
Erica Tercha, an Oakland Park local, is married and raises her family right here in Oakland Park. She is a Northeast Hurricane, FAU owl, and has been in retail health for the past 5 years. Erica earned her nursing degree from Barry University and her Masters in nursing from FAU. She helped organize the 1st Light of the World Health Fair and is a PTA board member at North Andrews Gardens Elementary.