For the next 6 months or so, flu season will be a very real concern for everyone in the healthcare industry. Did you know that more than 200,000 people will be hospitalized because of the flu this year? Of those hospitalizations, as many as 30,000 cases could be fatal. Thankfully, there are easy precautions you can take to keep flu from becoming a serious problem at your home, your clients' homes or at your workplace.
The best way of avoiding the flu is to get a vaccination shot sometime before November. There are different strains of flu--including the seasonal flu and the swine (or H1N1) flu. They require different vaccines; your doctor will be able to advise you on the best course of action for you.
Sometimes vaccinations may be in limited supply and will be given first to children, pregnant women and the elderly. If you find yourself unable to get the vaccination, don’t worry. There are many inexpensive and effective precautions that will help you stay healthy this fall and winter.
Good hand hygiene is the next best thing to vaccination. Flu germs can survive on surfaces—like door handles or elevator buttons for more than two hours! If someone is sick with the flu in your workplace or your child’s school, they are leaving flu germs everywhere they go, on everything they touch! So make sure you wash your hands frequently during flu season. A quick rinse will not do. Use anti-bacterial soap and warm water. Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Try to sing the “ABCs” or “Happy Birthday” to keep track of time (singing aloud could earn you some strange looks). If there is no sink nearby, try carrying around some hand sanitizer. If hand sanitizer is not available at your workplace, discuss the issue with your supervisor.
Sometimes touching germs is unavoidable, and often times you are not near a sink and do not have any sanitizer. In this situation, make sure you avoid touching your face. Many people have a bad habit of touching their noses, rubbing their eyes or biting their nails. There is no quicker way to put flu germs in your body! Keep your hands away from your face. If you are a nail bitter (like me), try putting a drop of “oil of oregano” on each nail.
Taking care of yourself is one of the most effective ways to keep the flu away. Make sure you are eating your vegetables—especially those rich in color, to ensure that you are getting enough vitamins and antioxidants. Exercise regularly too. Taking a 30-minute walk each day will boost your immune system significantly. Get your 7-8 hours of sleep per night also, or you risk wearing down the immune system, making your body more of a target for illnesses, specifically the flu. In addition, stress contributes to a less effective immune system.
And, of course, remember to use standard precautions. If you work with clients who may have the flu, consider wearing a mask. In addition to protecting yourself, you may avoid spreading the flu germ to other clients.
Again, vaccination is the best precaution, but it may not be available for everyone. You've probably heard that there could be a shortage this fall…making these tips all the more important. So, here’s to a happy and healthy flu season for you and your clients!
Until next time…
P.S. Please see our inservices “Protecting Your Clients During Flu Season” and “Handwashing” for more information on how to stay healthy this fall! Thanks!