It’s that time of year again. The rain is falling, the leaves are rustling, and people are sneezing… and sneezing… and sneezing. It’s flu season, and the time is ripe for getting sick. To avoid missing class and having snotty holidays, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to keep yourself healthy and productive. It’s actually quite easy to prevent the flu and requires just a bit of forethought.
Firstly, if you wish, you can get a flu vaccination. SHAC offers the shots for free, if you have Aetna insurance. It’s $15 if you don’t. You can fit a quick appointment in between classes. If SHAC is out of the vaccinations, which is incredibly possible, you can also head over to the Safeway pharmacy on SW 10th and SW Jefferson. In addition, if you are caring for someone with the flu, like a child or an elderly parent, a doctor can prescribe you antiviral medications. This is not to be confused with antibiotics. They lessen the likelihood that you will get the flu. If you pair up the vaccine with the antivirals, you’ll be darn near impenetrable!
Secondly, the best way to fight the flu is not to get it in the first place. The first line of defense you have is prevention. Yes, it may seem obvious to stay away from sick people, but some people are sick before they even know it. Influenza has an incubation period of 1-4 days, which is the amount of time between infection and the onset of symptoms. The best way to avoid getting it is to wash your hands often. Someone may have rubbed their eyes and then shaken your hand, or coughed and touched a doorknob, you just don’t know. On that note, it should go without saying that you should limit the amount of contact your hands have with your eyes, nose, or mouth. Those mucous membranes are happy homes for dirty viruses.
Thirdly, if you are one of those unfortunate souls that do get sick, stay home, drink fluids and rest up. You should not re-enter the general public until your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing drugs. Although, keep in mind that influenza can continue to infect people up to 5 days after symptoms dissipate. This goes double if you work in retail or food service. If you are unlucky enough to get the flu AND have a class where the professor is unsympathetic, go to class, cover your mouth and sit as far away from people as possible.
Lastly, DO NOT TAKE ANTIBIOTICS! No matter how much you think they will help, they won’t. Influenza is a virus and you just have to wait it out. If you take antibiotics, you run the risk of creating more drug-resistant bacterium that will be less receptive to antibiotic treatment in the future.
Not to sound trite by any means, but we all have to work together to keep the greater good healthy. A little forethought on everyone’s part can prevent a massive outbreak that has the potential to shut down the entire school.