Protect yourself this cold and flu season
By Katie Coakley, brought to you by Kaiser Permanente.
Fall is in the air. The temperatures are dropping, the kids are back in school and cold and flu season is upon us. If there seems to be a correlation between colder temperatures and flu season, it’s because there is.
“There’s a higher incidence of colds and flus in the fall and winter because that’s when our part of the world gets the flu,” explained Dr. Patricia Dietzgen, a family medicine physician at the Kaiser Permanente medical offices in Frisco. “It tends to start in the eastern part of the world and work its way around.”
Additionally, as the temperatures drop, we tend to stay inside more often, bringing us into contact with more people — which is why cold and flu season tends to peak between December and March. Both colds and flus are viruses; they are highly contagious and don’t respond to antibiotics. As a result, it’s important to proactively protect yourself this season.
Thankfully, there are proven ways to protect yourself — and your family — from colds and the flu.
The number one piece of advice from Dietzgen? Get a flu shot.
“A flu shot will protect not just you, but those around you,” said Dietzgen. “If you get a flu shot, it reduces the chance of you contracting the flu by 60 percent. If you do get the flu, you get a milder case, will recuperate faster and have less chance of infecting others. We highly recommend it.”
Frequently washing your hands with soap and scrubbing vigorously for at least 20 seconds also helps. If no water is handy, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will work, but make sure to utilize the same vigorous hand scrubbing motions. The flu and colds are spread through contact, so try to avoid touching high-traffic surfaces like public bathroom door handles and faucets — use a paper towel. In the office, light switches, telephones, public areas and countertops and even pens can transmit the virus.
“I try not to shake hands during cold and flu season,” said Dietzgen. “It’s a teachable moment. If I explain why I am not shaking hands, I further people’s awareness of how the flu is often transmitted.”
If you do touch surfaces, make sure not to touch your face or mouth afterwards. Then wash your hands.
If you do develop a cold or flu, Dietzgen said to stay home.
“If you do develop a flu or cold, stay home from work. Otherwise you’ll get everyone else sick. It’s best to avoid direct contact with those who have the flu.”
While you’re recuperating at home, be sure to keep hydrated and get plenty of rest.
Don’t worry about the office — they’ll survive. Just tell them that it’s for their own good for you to stay home and recover. Just be sure to continue practicing good hygiene at home — washing your hands, wiping down surfaces, even disinfecting toothbrushes by running them in the dishwasher once a week — so that you don’t spread it to everyone else in the house.
For more information on the flu shot and how you can protect yourself this season, visit kp.org/flu or call the recorded flu hotline at 1-866-868-7091.
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