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Stay Healthy This Year

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Are you avoiding the person who is hacking in the cubical next to you? Do you try to turn doorknobs with your elbows? Do you have cold and flu phobia? If you have made it this far into the winter without getting a cold or flu, count yourself lucky! Now is not the time to let your guard down. Stay vigilant to good preventive practices to stay healthy.

The Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services shares the following frequently asked questions from the Minnesota Department of Public Health.

What is influenza (flu)?
Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease. It is not the same as the "stomach flu." Flu is caused by a virus that attacks the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death.

What are the symptoms of flu?
Influenza symptoms come on quickly in the form of fever, cough, sore throat, headache, extreme tiredness, stuffed-up nose, and body aches. These symptoms can be severe and put you in bed for several days.

How is the flu different from a cold?
Colds are generally milder than the flu. A person with a cold is more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose, while the flu brings body aches, fever, and extreme fatigue. A person with a cold will usually keep up his or her normal activities, while someone with the flu will often feel too sick to do so. Colds usually do not result in serious health problems like pneumonia, bacterial infections, and hospitalization.

Can you get the flu from the flu shot?
No. Some people get mild flu-like symptoms for a short time after being vaccinated, but this is a sign that your body is responding to the vaccine. It is not the flu. Also, because there are many cold viruses circulating in the fall, it is possible that a person could be infected and become ill at the same time they receive the flu vaccine.

There are several reliable sources to consult about flu related matters. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers guidance for flu prevention and treatment.

Suggestions for preventing cold-related diseases:

  • Wear jackets and other protective clothing when going outside, especially at night.
  • Avoid crowded places as much as possible to prevent acquiring or spreading an illness.
  • Regularly wash hands with soap, especially after using the toilet and before preparing food, eating meals, and feeding a child.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing.
  • Take vitamin C supplements.
  • Get enough rest and manage stress, as lack of sleep weakens the immune system.

How does the flu spread?
According to the CDC, flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with the flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose.

People infected with flu may be able to infect others as early as 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

Young children, those who are severely ill, and those who have severely weakened immune systems may be able to infect others for longer than 5-7 days.

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you (or your 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 a 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. Try to sneeze or cough into the crook of your arm, rather than your hands.
  • Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an 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 like the flu.
  • If you begin to feel sick while at work, go home as soon as possible.

It’s not too late to get the flu shot; contact your local clinic to schedule an appointment!