WILMINGTON — Coughing, sneezing, and sniffling, oh my! Once again the dreaded colds and flu season is in the area.
Eleven local cases of type A influenza have been reported since Dec. 26, according to Ruth Chesnut, a Registered Nurse at Clinton Memorial Hospital who is coordinating Infection Control.
But there are plenty of steps to take to ensure that can make the grueling at least bearable.
Chesnut saysid the flu usually comes on suddenly, caused by influenza virus type A and B. Symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, and fatigue. She noted that vomiting and diarrhea may occur, but is more common in children.
“It’s really important to note that most healthy adults are able to infect others one day before symptoms develop, and five to seven days after becoming sick,” said Chesnut. “That means that you could have the flu, not know it, and still spread it to other people, making flu prevention practices so important even for seemingly healthy people.”
Chesnut said the flu is spread by droplets made when people cough, sneeze or talk.
“It can be spread by people up to six feet away from reach other, as well as touching a surface or an object that has the virus on it and then touching your nose or mouth,” she said.
Wash those digits
At top of her list of flu prevention is washing your hands.
“Handwashing is absolutely essential and non-negotiable this time of year,” she said.
Chesnut also recommends that if you have the flu, the best course of action is to stay at home until you no longer have the symptoms and don’t continue to spread it. She also stated you should coughs, and get an adequate amount of rest and plenty of fluids.
If someone has other chronic health conditions such as heart disease, asthma, or kidney disease, that increases the risk of catching the flu — talk to your primary care provider as soon as possible. If one should have to step outside, she recommends wearing a mask.
“Once you are asymptomatic, it’s important to remember that you may still be contagious, and should practice handwashing and avoid close contact with those at higher risk of contracting the flu,” said Chesnut.
According to Chesnut, those at greater risk of catching the flu bug are small children, elderly or pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions that weaken the immune system, those with lung disease and those with heart disease.
Watch your kids
With small children, Chesnut encourages many of the same safety precautions such has washing hands, covering coughs, keeping the child home and away from others until they have been fever-free for 24 hours — without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
“When holding a sick child, place his or her chin on your shoulder so they don’t cough in your face. Disinfect hard surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs, such as bathroom surfaces, kitchen counters, and toys. You can clean these by wiping down with household disinfectant — just make sure to follow the label,” said Chesnut.
She also states to be on the lookout for signs of trouble. These include fast breathing, bluish or gray skin color, not drinking enough fluids or not going to the bathroom as frequently as normal, not waking up easily and/or not interacting with others, severe or persistent vomiting, irritable to the point of not wanting to be held, and flu-like symptoms that improve, then return with a fever and worse cough.
“Contact your healthcare provider promptly or go to the emergency room if you see these symptoms in a child with the flu,” said Chesnut.
Shot of prevention
Another thing that many, if not all, medical professionals agree is that people should get their shots. Wilmington City Schools Nurse Connie Wall encourages those who haven’t gotten it to do so.
“It’s not too late,” said Wall. “And as they say, ‘An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.’”
As one would expect some kids may get anxious or scared to get their shot. Dr. Jeffrey Manser, a pediatrician at Wilmington Medical Associates, said the best way to prep them for the shot is to be honest.
“Say to them that the shot is to help them, and that while the shot may sting for a bit, it’ll be good in the long run,” said Dr. Manser.
According to Sietske de Fijter, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases and state epidemiologist for the Ohio Department of Health, “Influenza vaccination is the safest and most effective way to prevent the flu, except for infants younger than 6 months old who aren’t eligible to receive it. Vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work and school.”
de Fijter added that there’s no shortage of the flu vaccine across Ohio and that the short time it will take to get a flu vaccine “is much less than the time it will take you to recover.”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574