Take precautions against flu
By Paula Guillory
CROWLEY – The month of September signifies the end of summer vacation, the beginning of a new school year and the dreaded flu season.
The CDC (center for disease control) recommends that health care providers begin administering Flu Vaccines during September or as soon as they become available.
There are two types of flu vaccines available. The “flu shot” is an intramuscular injection, typically given in the arm, of the killed flu virus. It is recommended that anyone 6 months or older receive the vaccine. All healthy individuals, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma or immunosupressed individuals can be given the injection. Another option offered is FluMist the nasal spray flu vaccine. This is a live, weakened strain of the flu virus. It is only recommended to individuals ages 2 to 49, and who are not pregnant.
The most important part of preventing the flu each season is to contact a healthcare provider and procure either form of the flu vaccine. Aside from this it is also important to prevent spreading the flu virus. According to Courtney Jones, APRN, NNP, BC the single most effective way to prevent the spread of the virus is hand washing. “People should wash their hand with water and soap, especially after coming in contact with high touched surfaces.” These surfaces include telephones, keyboards, and countertops. Jones also suggests, “when water is not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.” She also stressed the importance of,” not touching mucus membranes including the nose and mouth.”
Additional precautions Jones recommended includes coughing and sneezing into a disposable tissue, avoiding close contact with sick people. She also points out that if someone is sick, they should stay home for at least 24 hours after their temperature has been relieved without the use of fever reducing medications. Sick individual should avoid leaving home except to seek medical attention.
The symptoms indicating that you have contracted the flu include fever (usually high), chills, sore throat, cough, headache, extreme fatigue, nasal congestion, and diarrhea and vomiting is typically noted with children. Jones says, “it’s important to consume plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.” Parents should remember children should not be given aspirin, due to the risk of Reye Syndrome. Jones warns, “aspirin is an ingredient in many over the counter products.” Parents should read labels or ask a physician or pharmacist if they are still unclear.
For those unlucky individuals that do contract the flu virus, antiviral drugs are available by prescription. These drugs prevent the virus from reproducing; this will result in a milder, short illness. This can also prevent the flu from leading to more serious complications such a sinus infections and pneumonia. Individuals with special consideration including pregnant women, young children, people over 65, and people with chronic disorders such as diabetes, renal failure, neurological and neuromuscular disorders and heart disease should seek treatment from their healthcare provider. Treatment of the flu is optimal when administered within two days of feeling the symptoms.
It is important to consider that flu season is unpredictable in timing, severity, and the length of the season. The typical season will peak in January or February, but as late as May. Because of genetic differences in each strain of the flu is difficult to predict the success of each year’s vaccine. All these factors combined stress the major importance in prevention. People should assume responsibility in getting vaccinated and preventing the spread of the virus through frequent hand washing.