Note to regular readers-
The following is informational material penned by my school nurse persona as a guide for college students. While it’s not in sync with my usual comedic posts, it’s factual information worthy of being shared. Regular whacky posts will resume immediately following.
Thank you for your patience and stay well!
Protect yourself from the FLU!!!
The flu is caused by the influenza virus.
Antibiotics are therefore ineffective as it is a viral infection.
The most commonly prescribed medication for flu relief is called Tamiflu.
Tamiflu does not cure the flu, but it may lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration.
Roughly speaking, flu season runs from October to April, reaching it’s peak in mid February.
Your best defense against the flu is prevention. You can arm yourself against the flu by observing the following measures-
Wash your hands OFTEN with soap and water or an alcohol based hand rub.
Wash your hands for at least the length of time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.
Seriously… sing the Happy Birthday song.
ALWAYS wash your hands before eating or preparing food, after using the bathroom and after blowing your nose or covering a cough.
Make it a habit to carry hand sanitizer during flu season.
Don’t share drinks or cigarettes.
Replace your toothbrush after you’ve been ill or sanitize it using boiling water. Keep your toothbrush isolated from other family members toothbrushes when you’re sick and vice versa.
Use disposable hand towels in your home or dorm room when you or others are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. This is how germs ENTER the body.
Avoid close contact with sick people and stay out of crowded places.
Frequently sanitize shared items in your home and office like phones, computer keyboards, remote controls, game controllers, door handles, refrigerator door handles and sink knobs.
Wash your hands or use sanitizer immediately after having contact with frequently touched surfaces in the community such as door handles, ATM and elevator buttons, hand rails, the check-out conveyer in stores and even the pen used by God-knows-how-many-people for signing credit card transactions.
Get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat healthy and DRINK PLENTY of fluids. *Limit caffeine and alcohol as they act as a mild diuretic causing your body to actually LOSE FLUID.
Stop or at least cut back on smoking. Smoking makes you more susceptible to illnesses like pneumonia, bronchitis and the flu, as well as increasing the intensity and duration of illness. Seriously. Cut back by one or two cigarettes per day. Yes, you CAN do it and it will help.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing or use the crux of your arm.
If you have a flu-like illness stay home for 24 hours AFTER you’ve been fever free without the use of fever reducing medicines.
Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of receiving a flu vaccine.
What’s the difference between the common cold and the flu?
What do I do if I get the flu?
Treat each symptom individually. For instance, if you have a fever and cough you treat exactly that.
Treatment of FEVER-
Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids to prevent dehydration. *Jello, Popsicles, broth and Italian Ice are considered fluids.
Take fever reducing medicines as needed- Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or Naproxen Sodium (Aleve)
Dress in light clothing.
A tepid bath should be considered for children with a high fever to prevent febrile seizures. Never use cold water, ice or rubbing alcohol. This may actually cause your temperature to rise through shivering.
When to CALL YOUR DOCTOR or REPORT TO URGENT CARE for FEVER-
Temperature over 103 F
*Always report a fever over 100.4 (rectal) – in babies under 3 months of age*
Fever lasting more than 72 hours
Fever unresponsive to fever reducing medicines
Stiff neck or severe headache
Severe abdominal pain
Most SORE THROATS are caused by viruses and are usually accompanied by other cold symptoms (runny nose, cough, red or watery eyes or sneezing) This type of sore throat is self limiting and is not helped with antibiotics.
Only CONFIRMED cases of STREP throat caused by the streptococcal bacterial are treated with antibiotics. You can have a rapid strep test done in your physicians office or an urgent care facility. Do not go to the emergency room for a sore throat unless you have difficulty breathing.
The emergency room is for emergencies only. If you’ve had the same sore throat for 4 days, it does not become an emergency on Friday at 5pm when your doctors office is closed. Call your doctor, (someone is always on call) or report to an urgent care facility.
Symptoms of STREP throat include SEVERE sore throat which usually comes on QUICKLY, SEVERE pain with swallowing, fever over 101 F, red swollen tonsils sometimes with white patches or streaks, tiny red spots (petechaie) on the back or roof of the mouth, headache, nausea and vomiting, swollen lymph nodes, body aches and rash.
TREATMENT of sore throat symptoms–
Take a pain reliever like Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or Naproxen Sodium (Aleve)
Use throat relieving sprays like Chloraseptic or throat relieving lozenges like Sucrets. They have a temporary numbing effect and will diminish pain.
Drink warm beverages like tea with honey, hot cocoa or broth. *Never give honey to children under one year of age. It can cause botulism and/or death.
Gargle with warm salt water.
Drink cold beverages, suck on ice chips or Popsicles.
When to CALL YOUR DOCTOR or REPORT TO URGENT CARE for SORE THROAT-
SEVERE sore throat that comes on QUICKLY
SEVERE pain with swallowing
Fever over 101 F
Red swollen tonsils sometimes with white patches or streaks or tiny red spots (petechaie) on the back or roof of the mouth
Nausea and vomiting
Swollen lymph nodes/glands
TREATMENT of COUGH accompanying a cold or bronchitis-
Drink plenty of fluids to loosen the mucous. Warm fluids are best.
For a DRY HACKING cough add HONEY to warm water, tea or lemon juice. *Never give honey to children under 1 year of age as it can cause botulism and/or death.
Use a HUMIDIFIER in your bedroom and keep the door closed to keep the steam in.
For a severe coughing attack turn on a hot shower, close the door and breath in the steam.
Don’t smoke. If you do, quit or at least cut down. Every cigarette makes a difference. Yes, you can!
Limit exposure to second hand smoke, dust, strong chemical fumes and perfumes.
Cough drops and/or hard candy can soothe or moisten throat and prevent coughing.
Elevate the head of your bed or use extra pillows.
Take cough medicine- being mindful when choosing the correct type as stated below. Suppressant vs. Expectorant.
*Take a cough SUPPRESSANT for a dry nonproductive cough. Acts to decrease coughing. Cough suppressants are products containing DEXTROMETHORPHAN.
*Take a cough EXPECTORANT for loose productive cough. Acts to thin mucous making it easier to cough up. Cough expectorants are products containing GUAIFENESIN. (Mucinex)
Read the label.
*CALL YOUR DOCTOR or REPORT TO URGENT CARE for –
Coughing up mucous that is thick green, yellow or brown
Coughing up blood
Wheezing or experiencing shortness of breath
Have tightness or pain in your chest
Have difficulty breathing
Cases of SEVERE asthma or bronchitis may require steroids and/or nebulizer treatments which are only available through your health care provider, urgent care or emergency room.
Difficulty breathing is considered an emergency.
BRONCHITIS is an inflammation of the bronchial passages that causes narrowing and the production of phlegm. It’s essentially treated the same as any cough (see above) with the exception that you should NOT take a cough suppressant for bronchitis.
Treatment of CONGESTION-
Increase your fluid intake. Drink at least 64 Oz (8 cups) per day. Warm fluids tend to have a better effect than cold. Fluids help to liquefy thick mucous. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Use a warm mist humidifier or breathe in warm mist from the shower. This will help to open airways, moisten and thin mucous. You can add ginger, eucalyptus, menthol or Vicks ointment to the water for maximum benefit.
Fill the sink with hot water, drape a towel over your head and breath in the steam if you do not have a humidifier or shower available to you.
Take a DECONGESTANT- Sudafed.
Take NSAID pain relievers to help with pain and swelling- Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or Naproxen Sodium (Aleve).
For nasal stuffiness try saline irrigation (Neti pot) or saline sprays. This helps to thin mucous, moisten mucous membranes and may remove virus or bacterial particles.
For INSTANT and TEMPORARY relief from nasal stuffiness consider DECONGESTANT NASAL SPRAYS like Afrin or Neo-Synephrine. *It is very important not to use these for longer than 3 days, as this type medication can cause rebound nasal congestion. (Chronic nasal stuffiness) I cannot stress this enough. *Alternate nasal spray with plain saline spray for best results.
Apply warm compresses (warm wash cloth or sock filled with rice and heated in microwave) to your face to relieve sinus congestion and pain.
Keep your head elevated with pillows or sleep in a recliner.
Spicy foods can help alleviate congestion. Pepper, garlic, hot curry powder, ginger, chili peppers.
Hot CHICKEN SOUP thins mucous, improves the function of cilia (hairlike projections in nasal passages that protect the body from foreign bacteria and viruses) and may also improve the motion of disease-fighting white blood cells.
Massage your sinuses.
How to… http://m.wikihow.com/Massage-Your-Sinuses
*When to CALL YOUR DOCTOR or REPORT TO URGENT CARE for congestion or sinus related problems-
Fever 101 or greater
Sudden severe pain in face or head
Double vision or change in vision
Confusion or difficulty concentrating
Swelling and/or redness around one or both eyes
Shortness of breath
Remember to consult your doctor or report to an urgent care facility if your symptoms are not an EMERGENCY.
The emergency room should be reserved for actual emergencies like difficulty breathing, chest pain, seizures, unbearable pain or traumatic injuries that must be treated immediately.
Immediately means symptoms that are potentially life threatening and cannot wait.
A sinus infection, cold or cough (without difficulty breathing) are NOT emergencies. Wounds requiring sutures can usually be treated in an Urgent Care facility, but may be case sensitive.
Use your best judgement.
*Disclosure- this guide is in no way intended to replace the advice of your physician. This is not medical advice. It’s purpose is to aid in managing your symptoms and to guide you in making prudent health decisions.
3 thoughts on “Staying Healthy During Flu Season- Flu Prevention and Treatment”
This it COMPREHENSIVE! You go girl. (Regular whacky posts will resume immediately following)
After my death cough in January I have added to my list of don’ts — don’t loan your cell phone to the sniffley stranger at your neighbors door. — OH, for us non-moms, you say ‘frequently sanitize shared items’, (like a cell phone or computer). Sanitize with WHAT?
Thank you, and excellent question! Diluted bleach or disinfectant wipes. Instructions for bleach dilution here -> http://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/cleaning.htm
Thanks! I HAVE bleach. — That makes TWO gold stars for me 😀