Nourished Living by Dietician Kelly Hamlin MA, RD, CDN

fluShow of hands… do you know someone who has already contracted the flu this season? It is running amok! Presently, two of the group homes I work at are quarantined—and so are several others.

Schools are being hit, many of my co-workers and their families are down with it, and the list goes on and on.

I’m guessing with all the sickness going around, you may ask yourself, “How do I know if it’s the flu or a cold?”

So glad you asked! My friends at made up the handy dandy chart at right that will help you make the distinction between the two.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the week ending November 24, the flu was reported to be widespread in New York, Mississippi and South Carolina.

And every state is reporting some kind of flu activity. In that same week, there were two pediatric deaths in the country due to the flu.

How does it spread? Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through the coughing, sneezing, or talking of someone with the flu.

Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose.

Many other viruses spread these ways as well.

People infected with flu may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to spread the flu before you know you are sick as well as while you are sick.

Young children, those who are severely ill, and those who have severely weakened immune systems may be able to infect others for longer than 5-7 days.

If you’ve never had the flu, consider yourself lucky. If you have, you know that you just want to crawl in a hole and die.

So what steps can you take to prevent yourself from getting the flu?

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. You can also cough/ sneeze into the crook of your elbow, away from your hands. This will block the spread of droplets from your mouth or nose that could contain germs.

Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Also, don’t be embarrassed to carry cleaning wipes with you to clean off grocery carts, etc. Use your sleeve to open doors.

Be sure to disinfect your house, your car, etc., and anywhere a sick person has been.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Yes, I know that’s almost impossible these days!

If you or your child gets sick with a respiratory illness such as the flu, limit contact with others as much as possible to help prevent spreading illness.

Stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after fever is gone except to seek medical care or for other necessities. Fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

If you have a fever lasting more than three days, you need to see your doctor. There are antiviral medications available.

It is very important for the following to get a flu shot: young children over the age of six months, the elderly, women who are pregnant, people who live with or care for others who are high risk of developing serious complications from the flu, and those with chronic illnesses. (Locally Oneida County has reported over 800 flu cases.

According to Diane Ward, RN, a communicable disease and immunization nurse at the Herkimer County Department of Public Health, there has been 84 confirmed cases of the flu throughout the county. No cases have been confirmed in Town of Webb as of yet, she said.)

Anyone can benefit from getting a flu shot. Is it too late? Not necessarily.

If, God forbid, you do get the flu, stay home and do not go to work. People go to work sick all the time because they believe their workplace cannot manage without them.

Think of how the workplace will manage when half to three-quarters of the employees call in sick because of YOU! Personally, I told my boss I was going to call in “well.”

Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink! And by that I mean, water, hot tea (add buckwheat honey, does wonders for coughs!), broth, etc. anything that will help hydrate you and flush out the illness. (Yes, I know that alcohol kills germs, but it has not been scientifically proven to cure the flu!)

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, you sometimes get sick.

If you do, suck it up and take care of yourself—don’t try to be a hero.

But, hopefully, if you use common sense and good practices you can be spared. I know I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Sadly, just because I wrote this advice I anticipate waking up with the flu tomorrow!

Good luck to you all and stay well!

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