’Tis the Season to be Wary
Thanks to increased time indoors and short winter days, our immune system seems to leave us more susceptible to infection. The flu season is here, and you will find people coughing with sore throats, runny noses and even chills and fever. In addition, one could experience fatigue, body aches and gastric upsets. Infection from the influenza virus can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. Flu is more dangerous for people with chronic health conditions or those receiving immune system compromising medications. Seniors are at a higher risk because age weakens the immune system. The flu virus is detected year-round, but incidence is elevated from October to May each year, peaking in January and February. You could be sick a week to ten days or more if a secondary infection occurs. What can you do?
The first line of defense should be a vaccination. Anyone 6 months or older who is not allergic to eggs should get vaccinated. This year you can be protected against influenza A (H1N1), A (H3N2), and B. In quadrivalent vaccines an additional B virus is included. If you are pregnant, speak with your doctor about a recombinant vaccine which is recommended for pregnant women and those allergic to eggs. Talk with your doctor about immunization choices. The improved immune response from vaccination only helps for 6 to 8 months, so each year you should revaccinate. It takes two weeks to reach an effective vaccine response.
Is there something else you can do to prevent infections? The US Center for Communicable Disease stresses:
1) Stay home when you are sick.
2) Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
3) Wash your hands frequently, using a lot of friction with soap and water or alcohol based hand lotion.
4) Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
5) Practice good health habits wherever you are. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, especially when someone is ill. Get 7-8 hours of sleep, exercise, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.
Enjoy the season without illness.
Pat Woerheide, RN