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Healthcare 101: Do’s and Don’t’s of the Flu

As the weather becomes cooler, the season for runny noses and lingering coughs begins. Before flu season gets into full swing, take time to review what steps you should take to prevent illness and also recuperate if you do become sick.

Do: Prevent the Flu with a Flu Vaccination

The CDC says that getting the flu vaccine is the number one step you can take to improve your chances of not getting the flu this year. The most prominent strains of flu virus change each year, and this means that you must get an annual flu vaccine to be fully protected from the flu. For the 2015-2016 flu season, more than 146.4 million people got vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For 2016-2017, it is recommended that all qualified adults and children receive the injectable influenza vaccine. The nasal spray that has been available in previous years is not recommended this season, as it may not be as effective as the injected vaccine. Minor side effects from the flu shot may include soreness at shot site, low grade fever, and aches, but at least it’s not the flu, right?

Do: Recognize the Signs of the Flu

Do you know the signs of flu? Knowing the symptoms of the flu is critical to being diagnosed quickly and recovering successfully. The most common signs and symptoms of the flu include a cough, sore throat, body aches, runny nose or stuffy nose, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people develop a fever, while others do not. In severe cases, you may experience diarrhea or vomiting. The good news is studies show that if you’re diagnosed within 48 hours, an anti-viral medication may help lessen the severity and duration of the flu. Flu tests for quick diagnosis are available at CareSpot with extended hours, 7 days a week.

Do: Drink Plenty of Fluids

If you do get the flu, staying hydrated is critical. This is particularly important if you are vomiting or have diarrhea. Depending how sick you feel, you may not be in the mood for regular food. However, you should continue to drink plenty of water. Clear soups and broths are a good way to stay hydrated and get some calories even when you do not feel hungry. Also consider drinking decaffeinated tea, as this may aid in opening up congested airways, soothe sore throats, and provide a little warmth. Avoid any beverages with caffeine, which can further dehydrate you.

Don’t: Go to Work

Do your coworkers a favor: if you get the flu, please do not go to work. Attending work while sick is one of the top causes of spreading infection—and annoyance with your coworkers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you wait for at least one day after your fever is gone before leaving your home. Try to avoid school, work, running errands and attending public gatherings while sick for a quicker recovery, as your body needs adequate rest to recoup. Stay in bed, kick up your feet, and enjoy some downtime; you’ll be back to your routine in a few short days.

Do: Wash your Hands Frequently

Washing your hands is a great way to prevent the spread of disease. During flu season, make sure you wash your hands with soap and water before every meal. In addition, it is best not to touch your face when your hands are unclean. Using hand sanitizer is a good substitute when water is unavailable. It’s also important to always sneeze or cough into a tissue or sleeve — not your hands (or even worse, toward anyone nearby)!

Don’t: Ignore Severe Symptoms

When do you visit your local urgent care center, and what would be better handled by the hospital/ER? The best rule of thumb is to visit your local urgent care center for symptoms that you would be comfortable addressing with your primary care doctor. However, the hospital is better suited to handle complications from the flu such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness, or fevers of 104 or higher, which can result in serious complications if left untreated. Of course, use the best judgment when gauging when to visit urgent care or the hospital.

If you start noticing complications from the flu, CareSpot can help refer you to a specialist for more ongoing care.