Marie Etienne, DNP, ARNP, PLNC is the chair of the International Nursing Committee of the American Red Cross. She is a specialist in family and pediatric nursing and is a professor of nursing at Miami Dade College.
Flu season is upon us, and now is the time to take steps that will help you avoid being sick in bed with body aches, fever and a runny nose..
Here are seven tips to beat back the bug from the Red Cross:
- If you haven’t already, get a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone aged six months and older. Pregnant women, people aged 50 or older, those with chronic medical conditions, people living in group facilities and children are at higher risk for complications and should be sure to get vaccinated, as should their caregivers. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to offer maximum protection, so get yours early.
- Soap it and stop it. Proper hand washing helps avoid getting and spreading the flu. If using soap and water: wash thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, rinse, and then dry with a disposable towel (and use it to turn off the faucet). If using an alcohol-based sanitizer: rub thoroughly over the hands until the gel dries.
- Watch your hands. Keep hands away from the eyes, nose and mouth to stop flu germs from entering the body. If you sneeze or cough, do it into a tissue and throw it away. If you don’t have a tissue, direct your germs into your elbow, not your hands.
- Keep your distance. The flu virus is spread by respiratory droplets, so avoid close contact such as handshakes and hugs with people and co-workers who may be ill. Keep up your resistance to germs by eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep and exercising regularly.
- Don’t share your stuff. Avoid sharing items at home and work such as utensils, drinks, computers, telephones and mobile devices. If you must share, disinfect surfaces before and after. Regularly disinfect doorknobs, switches, handles, desks and other surfaces that are commonly touched.
- Take care of a fever. Common signs of the flu include high fever, severe body aches, headache, extreme tiredness, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, and vomiting and/or diarrhea (the latter more common in children). If you get the flu, keep others well by staying at home until 24 hours after your fever is gone without taking medication.
- Keep flu tips at your fingertips. The Red Cross First Aid app is available in English and in Spanish, and can be downloaded directly from product specific app stores or by going to redcross.org/apps. For more Red Cross information on avoiding the flu, click here.