Saturday, February 23, 2008

Avoid the Flu -- Stop the Spread of Germs that Make You and Others Sick

By Latrice Barlow, CMA, RHE, CCS-P, Clayton State University Nurse Managed Clinic

Influenza is a respiratory illness that is caused by flu viruses. Flu symptoms usually start to appear one to four days after the virus gets into your body. The flu is contagious and can be transferred to someone else one day before symptoms occur and up to five days after getting sick. The flu virus is spread mainly through respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes.

Symptoms of the flu include sore throat, high fever, headaches, cough, muscle pains, and lethargy.

The flu can cause added medical complications for people in "high risk" groups, such as the elderly and children.

Different strains of the flu emerge each year, meaning that flu vaccines must be altered yearly.

Flu season can last anywhere from October to May.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends six good health habits for prevention…

1. Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.
2. Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
3. Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If no tissue is available cough or sneeze in your elbow. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
4. Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
If You Get Sick
Most healthy people recover from the flu without complications. If you get the flu, stay home, get lots of rest, drink plenty of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco.

There are over-the-counter (OTC) medications to relieve the symptoms of the flu (but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, particularly fever).

Remember that serious illness from the flu is more likely in certain groups of people including people 65 and older, pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions and young children.

Consult your doctor early on for the best treatment.

A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.

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