Practical concerns when it comes to the flu, getting well and avoiding illness

As the Hill Air Force Base flu vaccination campaign continues for both active duty and "high risk" beneficiaries, many are asking the question, "What else can I do to protect my family and myself from the flu?" and "What do I do if I get sick?"

To avoid the flu, observe these simple rules:

  • Get vaccinated for seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 flu when vaccines are available.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

For those who do become ill:

  • Keep away from others as much as possible. This is to prevent others from getting sick. Do not go to work or school while ill.
  • Stay home (except to seek medical care) for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone. Your fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines. A fever is defined as having a temperature of 100¬° Fahrenheit or 37.8¬° Celsius or greater. Avoid treating children and teenagers who have influenza with aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid).
  • Get plenty of rest and drink clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks and for infants give them electrolyte beverages) to keep hydrated.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Check with your health care provider about whether you need antiviral medications. Most people will not require antiviral medications. Antiviral treatment is usually only considered for those younger than 5 years of age or older than 65 years old, those who are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease other chronic conditions, anyone younger than age 19 and on chronic aspirin therapy, or residents of nursing homes and chronic care facilities.

The vast majority of flu cases will resolve with no complications; however some cases can be serious. If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Fast or troubled breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Dehydration
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

For more information, please call Community Health at 775-4518, or visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.

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