January is one of the peak "flu season" months. Cases of seasonal influenza are being reported by the media. After December visits with family and friends, some school personnel and students may be incubating unwanted germs or may have already developed illness. Remember to be vigilant about hand washing, coughing into your sleeve, and contacting your healthcare provider within 48 hours of if illness develops. It's not too late to vaccinate!
Flu is not a Cold or a Stomach Bug
A mild case of the flu can sometimes look like the common cold. But the flu can be much more serious. In addition to fever, cough, sore throat, and a runny or stuffy nose, the flu can cause headache, muscle ache, and fatigue. And even though the flu is not a stomach bug, children can have nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. "Although most flu illnesses in children do not lead to complications, some can lead to ear infections, pneumonia, hospitalization, and in rare cases, even death" says Dr. Carolyn Bridges of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "By far, the best way to prevent influenza is by getting a flu vaccine. Every year, there are children who die of flu".
Flu Spreads Easily
People who have the flu usually have a runny nose, and they cough and sneeze, which makes droplets with viruses in them. Other people can get the flu by breathing these droplets in their noses or mouths or toughing surfaces contaminated with flu virus and then touching their noses or mouths. "The best way for parents to protect themselves and their children from the flu is to get the entire family vaccinated with the flu vaccine every year," says Dr. Meg Fisher from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Take Everyday Preventive Actions To Stop The Spread of Influenza
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you (or child) stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs that can cause respiratory illnesses like flu.
For more information visit www.cdc.gov/flu
Chariti Sanchez MSN-Ed, RN