Stay healthy this flu season

May 07, 2021
6 min read


Lester Griel, CRNP


There are many things that are certain in life. Unfortunately, one of those things is influenza (flu) season. During the 2017-2018 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there were more than 48.8 million cases of flu resulting in 959,000 hospitalizations and 79,400 deaths. Eighty-six percent of flu-related deaths that season occurred in people over the age of 65. With these staggering numbers, preventing flu is vitally important.

Your first and best means of prevention is simply to get your flu shot. It is recommended that everyone above the age of six receive a flu vaccine every year, prior to the onset of flu activity in their area. Ideally, you should receive your vaccination before the end of October. People over the age of 65 should receive a high-dose vaccine in order to produce a more robust immune response in the body. Despite numerous rumors, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot. Typical side effects of the immunization include redness and discomfort at the injection site, low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches. While these symptoms may feel like the flu, they are not. Unfortunately, the flu shot is not 100 percent effective. However, by getting your flu shot, you will lessen your chances of getting the flu and will prevent the spread of the virus to others.

There are additional measures that you can take to prevent flu. You should try to avoid – as much as possible – contact with individuals who are obviously ill with respiratory symptoms. If you have to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose, preferably with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands.

Hand washing is extremely important in maintaining good health and is, in fact, the single most effective way of preventing the spread of infectious disease. Hand washing is the preferred method of cleaning hands, but if you do not have access to soap and water, it is recommended you clean your hands with an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Be sure to follow these five steps when hand washing:

  1. Wet. Wet your hands with clean, running water, warm or cold, turn off the tap and apply soap.
  2. Lather. Lather your hands by rubbing them together to ensure you get the soap on the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  3. Scrub. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you have trouble timing this, hum the Happy Birthday song twice.
  4. Rinse. Rinse your hands after scrubbing under clean running water.
  5. Dry. Thoroughly dry using either a clean towel or an air dryer.

While the flu vaccine and hand washing are two of the most important things you can do to prevent getting the flu, there are other steps you can take.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If you do have to touch these areas of your face, wash your hand afterward.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before eating or drinking.
  • Finally, disinfect any surfaces you come in contact with that may be contaminated with germs like the flu virus.

If you do come down with flu like symptoms (headache, dry cough, fatigue and weakness, nasal congestion, sore throat, chills and sweats, fever over 100.4 F), make sure you avoid contact with healthy individuals. If possible, avoid work, school and running errands. If you are at high risk for complication from flu, please contact your healthcare provider immediately. Treatment with antiviral medications in high-risk individuals can shorten duration of illness and prevent complications from the virus.

Flu can be highly contagious, but with a few simple steps, you can significantly decrease your risk of contracting flu this season.

Lester Griel, CRNP, is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner with Mount Nittany Physician Group Family Medicine at its Mount Nittany Health – Green Tech Drive location in State College.

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