Missed the Flu Shot? There Are Ways to Keep the Virus From Spreading

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL -- With a shortage of influenza vaccines nationwide, physicians with Allina Medical Clinic are urging people to take extra precautions as we enter what may be one of the worst flu seasons in years.

"As unpredictable as influenza may be, it's relatively easy to contain if people are careful," said Jeff Nelson, M.D., Allina Medical Clinic. "Simply washing your hands is one of the best defensive steps you can take to protect yourself from catching -- or spreading the flu and other viruses."

The flu is an acute infection of the upper respiratory tract caused by a virus. It is spread by droplets of moisture released into the air from the mouth or nose of infected people when coughing or sneezing.

Debugging The Flu: Prevention Steps

-- Hand washing - The simplest, most effective way to avoid the flu and

other viruses is to wash your hands, and wash them often. Keep your

hands away from your nose, eyes and mouth. If flu germs get on your

hands, you can infect yourself by rubbing your eyes or touching your

nose or mouth. Also, wash your hands if you have the flu to avoid

infecting others.

-- Keep it to yourself - Don't share your personal items including:

towels, washcloths, silverware, cups, glasses, straws and razors.

-- Stay healthy - Healthy people are less likely to get sick. Keep up

your resistance to infection with a good diet, plenty of rest and

regular exercise.

-- Avoid exposure - Crowds of people may mean a lot of flu virus in the

air. If you do get the flu, stay home. Going to work or school only

puts others at risk of getting sick.

New drugs have been developed in recent years that can be used to treat certain strains of the flu, helping to limit the extent of the illness. The drugs, which are prescribed by a physician, need to be taken within 48 hours after onset.

If, despite these precautions, you do get sick, the first symptoms of the flu are:

-- a high fever (101 to 103 degrees F),

-- chills and sweats,

-- muscle aches and headaches.

-- After onset of the flu, you will likely suffer from a runny nose,

cough, sore throat, watery eyes and eyes that are sensitive to light.

These symptoms usually last from three to five days.

If you think you have the flu, doctors recommend:

-- staying at home and getting lots of rest,

-- breathing steamy air,

-- drinking lots of fluids or eating broth soups,

-- taking Tylenol to reduce fever.

Remember, antibiotics are ineffective against the flu. If symptoms persist or worsen after three to five days, or if you experience painful or difficult breathing or chest pain, you should see your doctor.

Source: Allina Hospitals & Clinics

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