Stay Healthy for the Holidays
It’s that time of year again. “What?” you say, “The Christmas Holidays already??” Well, yes – and it’s also flu season again. In fact, flu season officially started two months ago, in October and it will run until May. Every year thousands of people in the United States die from seasonal flu, and many more are hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While older adults and people with chronic diseases are more likely to experience problems and complications from the flu, with the right precautions it is possible to stay healthy during the flu season.
The single best thing an older adult can do to prevent flu is to get vaccinated – every year. Because the expected strains of influenza virus are different from year to year, the medicines in the flu vaccine also change most years. So it is necessary to get vaccinated every year, ideally before the flu season peaks in January and February. Since protection normally develops in about two weeks after receiving a flu shot, it’s a smart idea to get immunized before the holiday season.
See your physician or other health care provider to get a flu shot. Most pharmacies and drug stores also provide flu shots for walk-ins.
Locally, county health departments also offer flu shots.
In Peoria County, call (309) 679-6655 during business hours for an appointment and instructions on proof of medical insurance. There is also a seasonal flu webpage at www.peoriacounty.org/pcchd/fluseason/.
In Tazewell County, call (309) 925-5511 during business hours for the Immunization Clinic’s hours of operation and the medical insurance plans that are accepted or see www.tazewellhealth.org/nursing/immunization-clinics.html.
Other things you can do during flu season to avoid getting sick:
1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
2. Stay home when you are sick.
3. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Use a tissue or learn to sneeze and cough into your elbow to avoid spreading germs onto your hands.
4. Clean your hands.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits. Keep frequently touched surfaces clean and disinfected. Get plenty of sleep, manage your stress level, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
A friend of ours, when visiting his physician with flu-like symptoms, asked him how he managed to avoid catching all his patients’ diseases. The doctor’s answer was simple: he always washed his hands between patients. Simple…and effective!
Handwashing is like a "do-it-yourself" five-step health program, with five simple steps: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse and Dry.
Wet your hands with clean running water (doesn’t have to be warm or hot) and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
Scrub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds, which is the time it takes to hum “Happy Birthday to You” – the entire song twice. Whether silently or aloud is completely your choice.
Rinse your hands well.
Dry hands using a clean towel (a paper towel is ideal) or air dry.
When is washing your hands necessary?
• Before, during and after preparing food
• Before eating
• Before and after caring for someone who is sick
• Before and after treating a cut or wound
• After using the toilet
• After changing diapers or cleaning up someone who has used the toilet
• After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
• After touching an animal, animal feed or treats, or animal waste
• After touching garbage.
• When returning home after having been out in public places
What about hand sanitizers?
Using soap and running water to wash your hands is normally the best way to reduce the number of microbes on them. If they are not available alcohol-based sanitizers that are at least 60% alcohol are the preferred alternative, but they do not eliminate all kinds of germs and may not be effective when your hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
Don’t forget: even though you have received your flu shot, your hands can spread the flu germs someone else left behind. Making effective hand hygiene a habit will pay healthy dividends.
If your group or club would like an informative presentation on keeping healthy during the winter months, get in touch with Brandee Cowley, RN, at Apostolic Christian Skylines Home Care Services. Contact information is below.
Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; July 2015
Stop Germs! Stay Healthy! Wash your Hands, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; December 2013