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Taking care of yourself during the flu season
As you may have heard, this year’s flu season started earlier than typical and is currently widespread throughout the country. Read on for important information on protecting yourself from the flu.
Flu is here!
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and can rarely even lead to death. Flu symptoms start suddenly and include some or all of the following:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (very tired)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
How flu spreads:
Flu spreads primarily by tiny droplets made when you cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. You can also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or possibly eyes prior to washing your hands.
Period of Contagiousness:
Those with the flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after they feel sick, and can remain contagious for up to a week after they get sick. You may even be able to spread the flu to someone for a day before you feel sick. Most people get sick about two days after they are exposed to the influenza virus.
How can you limit the risk of getting flu?
- The first and most important step to take is to get a flu vaccination each year. It is not too late! It takes about 2 weeks to develop antibodies to help protect you from the flu.
- Even years when the flu vaccination isn’t a good match to the flu virus strains that are circulating, getting a flu shot can make symptoms milder if you contract the flu.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Always wash your hands before eating.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Use Clorox wipes (or similar product) on frequently touched surfaces such as door knobs, remote controllers, keyboards etc.
I am sick, now what?
- It is very difficult to distinguish the flu from other viral or bacterial causes of respiratory illnesses on the basis of symptoms alone. Flu typically starts suddenly, whereas other illnesses gradually worsen.
- Rest, stay hydrated
- Isolate yourself as much as possible – call Health Services if you need advice on whether to attend classes or sport’s practices
- Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm, and then wash your hands.
- Over the counter medications can help you feel better, but they don’t kill the flu virus
- Research studies differ on whether anti-viral medication begun within 48 hours of symptom onset decrease how long you are sick and how sick you get. Those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, immunosuppression, should get advice from a healthcare provider on whether an anti-viral medication makes sense for them, as they may experience a greater benefit.
- If you develop symptoms of shortness of breath, rapid breathing, wheezing, chest pain, severe or persistent vomiting, fever that recurs after being resolved for 24 hours, call the Health & Wellness Center or Public Safety during off hours.