SALT LAKE CITY — Most medical experts agree this flu season is one of the worst we’ve seen in a long time. The influenza virus spiked early this year, hitting many Utah households near the end of December. Because the virus is still rampant in this state, I’ve compiled a couple of lists to help you prevent or treat the flu.
The best way to prevent contracting influenza, without a doubt, is to get a flu shot. No matter what your beliefs are about medical treatments, save yourself from an illness that can be treated with a vaccine. Vaccines vary from year to year, so it is important to keep up with immunizations.
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But it's important to note that even a vaccine isn’t fool-proof. You can still get the flu after you’ve been vaccinated, but the vaccine will lessen the effects of the illness.
In addition to getting a flu shot, the following actions can help reduce your chances of contracting the flu:
- Wash your hands often.
- Eat a consistent diet of healthy foods and drink lots of fluids.
- Do not over-clean everything and everywhere you touch: The only way to strengthen your immune system is to be exposed to germs. (This does not apply to people with compromised immune systems.) Remember, the more you over-clean, the more illness you will have in your home.
- Prepare your food responsibly. Cook meats to well-done, clean cutting boards with soap and water after each use, clean fresh foods before eating, etc.
- Change the dish cloth in your kitchen daily.
Now, if you already have the flu, here are some tips that will help you get better faster:
- Rest, rest, rest. If you overdo it you will stay sick. Your body only heals when it's resting.
- Treat a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit with Tylenol (or a generic brand of acetaminophen). If the fever lasts more than three days, consult your doctor.
- Humidify the air in your home.
- Keep warm and dry.
- Drink clear liquids and eat easily digested foods — rice, toast, chicken soup, etc. This is also a good time to add a little extra salt in your diet. If you cannot keep any food or fluid down, consult your doctor.
- If you have frequent diarrhea, take a dose of anti-diarrheal medication after each episode, up to four times a day.
- If you are diabetic, remember that when you’re sick your blood sugars usually go up, even if you are not eating. Check your blood sugar more often than usual.
- If you are unable to take daily prescribed medication, consult your doctor.
- Wash your linens — sheets, pillow slips, towels, etc. — daily if possible.
- Shower or bathe daily — germs will be washed away with soap and water. Remember, you can carry the flu virus on any part of your body.
- Stay home. Do not work or go into other public places and spread the flu virus.
The flu is easily transmitted, and one of the most contagious places to go is a hospital. I see the public bring in their small children to the hospital to visit a friend or family member all the time, but this is not smart. In my career, I have seen many patients die from the flu. It is both a possible and common outcome no matter what type of flu they have.
One also needs to remember the flu is a virus for which there is no cure. We treat the symptoms of the flu. We don't cure the flu.