Home News Wellness Tried and true ways of avoiding the flu

Tried and true ways of avoiding the flu

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Keisha Ellis, FNP-C

As doctor’s offices, urgent care centers and hospitals are seeing, flu season is active and on the increase. Flu is one of the nation’s leading causes of death, with roughly 24,000 people a year dying from flu and its complications.

Latest figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the flu hitting hard in all but seven states. The CDC lists four important steps to reduce your risk of infection:

• Wash your hands consistently throughout the day. Hand washing is still one of the most effective and easiest ways to prevent infection.

• Keep your hands away from your face. Microscopic germs find their way into our bodies most often through hand-to-eye, -nose or -mouth contact. Door knobs and handles, office coffee pots and grocery cart handles can all carry the virus.

• Stay away from sick people. Individuals can still be contagious for 24 hours after a fever and other symptoms cease.

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• Get vaccinated. Even when a vaccine is not a perfect match for a flu strain, it still benefits the recipient by decreasing the intensity and duration of the illness and preventing complications.

Besides getting a flu shot, the best way to prevent the flu — or other illnesses — is the common sense things we learned as children: Wash your hands regularly, keep your hands away from your face and avoid people who are sick.

If you do become ill and suspect the flu virus, see your doctor or visit an urgent care center; you may receive a prescription for an antiviral medication which can lesson flu symptoms and help you recover faster. This is a critically-important step for those who are at higher risk for flu complications, such as young children, adults age 65-plus, and those with lung disease and compromised immune systems.

When you’re ill, you can help stop the spread of viruses by staying home — except for medical care visits — until you have been fever- and symptom-free for 24 hours.

Protect others from your sneezes and coughs by turning away from people and bringing your sleeved arm up to sneeze or cough into your elbow.

Unlike a cold, the flu typically comes on suddenly. It is a contagious respiratory virus adults may unknowingly spread before experiencing symptoms. According to the CDC, flu symptoms include fever or feeling feverish/chills (although not everyone with flu will have a fever); cough; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle or body aches; headaches; fatigue; and vomiting and diarrhea, which are more common in children.

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Keisha Ellis is a certified family nurse practitioner for Eastern New Mexico Medical Group’s Quick Care. The advice offered in this column is that of the author.