Flu Season Is Here!

From the Desk of Toni B. Vento, MS, RN, NCSN,  Supervisor of Health Services, Medford Public Schools

Flu Season Is Here!

Rates of influenza-like-illness (flu) continue to rise in Massachusetts according to the latest weekly flu report (December 1, 2017) from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate Massachusetts experienced widespread influenza activity for the first week of December.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

  • Fever, chills
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Children may also have vomiting and diarrhea

How is the flu spread?

The flu virus is in the wet spray (droplets of saliva and mucus) that comes out of the nose and mouth of someone who coughs or sneezes. If you are close enough to a person with the flu (3 – 6 feet) when they cough or sneeze, you can breathe in the virus and get sick. Flu symptoms start 1 – 4 days (usually 2 days) after a person breathes in the virus. Flu is spread easily from person to person. The virus can also live for a short time on things you touch like doorknobs, phones and toys. After you touch these objects, you can catch the virus when you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. Adults with flu are contagious from about one day before symptoms appear to about one week after. Children can spread the flu even longer after they get sick.

How is the flu treated?

People sick with flu should drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, wash their hands often and stay home to avoid spreading the flu to other people. Over the counter pain relievers, such as Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen, may help people with the flu feel more comfortable. Children and teens with the flu should never take aspirin, because a rare but serious disease called Reye Syndrome can occur. Do not give cough or cold medicines to children younger than 4 years of age unless prescribed by a doctor.

There are drugs available that your doctor may prescribe to treat flu. The drugs work best if started soon after symptoms begin. Your doctor can determine if you need treatment with these medications.

How is the flu prevented?

  • It is not too late to get your flu vaccine. Many pharmacies have ample supplies of the flu vaccine and an appointment is not necessary for vaccination. For those with chronic illnesses, check with your primary care physician about flu vaccination.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the inside of your elbow if you don’t have a tissue. Throw tissues away and wash your hands.
  • Always wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Use household cleaners to clean things that are touched often, like door knobs, toys, and phones.
  • Avoid close physical contact with people who are sick. Try to stay at least 3-6 feet from someone who is sick with the flu.
  • People with young children, a weak immune system or a chronic illness should avoid crowds, if possible.
  • Stay home from work and school if you get sick with a flu-like illness (fever with cough or sore throat) and avoid contact with others so the virus does not spread. Stay at home until you have been free from fever for at least 24 hours after your last dose of fever-reducing medication (like Tylenol, Advil or Motrin). For most people this will mean staying at home for at least 4 days.

 (*Information courtesy of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health)