Coughing, fever, sore throat...oh my!

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February may be a short month, but it's packed: Groundhog Day, the Super Bowl, Valentine's Day...and the flu. Flu season is a lot like watching a sunrise.

When flu season begins each Oct 1 there is a great sense of anticipation as the HCC administers thousands of flu shots and begins reporting flu and influenza-type illnesses to the CDC in our role as one of the nations' flu sentinels. When the SAS winter holiday break ends and we rush headlong into January, the typical mid-February flu season peak is never far from our minds. Like waiting for the sun just before it edges over the horizon, we know the heaviest occurrence of flu is coming and we hold our collective breath in anticipation. Then boom! It's upon us just as the sun once risen can be blinding in its brightness.

No doubt you're seeing flu's effects around you here at SAS. We've seen the number of flu cases at the HCC tick up quite a bit in the last month. Here are some standard tips for decreasing your chances of getting the flu:

1) Get a flu shot.

Because flu season doesn't officially end until May, it's not too late to protect yourself. While getting flu vaccine does not guarantee you'll avoid the bug, taking it can lessen the severity of the symptoms. The HCC has a small supply of flu vaccine for adults 18 and over and for children 6 months to 3 years. Reach the HCC at x18809. Many retail pharmacies still offer flu vaccine. Show your PharmAvail card at any retail pharmacy and the vaccine is free.

2) Wash your hands.

A lot. Use soap and hot water. This is the number one way to avoid the spread of communicable illnesses of all kinds.

3) Don't come to work if you are sick.

Don't let a strong work ethic overpower common sense. Help your coworkers, friends and family stay well by using 'social distancing'.

4) Avoid individuals who are obviously ill.

This is a no-brainer. If someone is coughing or has other obvious signs of illness and you sit by them, you're next.

5) Cough into your elbow.

Always good advice regardless of the time of year.

If you get the flu--cough, fever, sore throat and body aches are the most typical symptoms--drink plenty of fluids, take an over-the-counter medication to lower your body temperature, stay home and get plenty of rest so your body's defenses can kick in. You do not need to be seen by a health care provider if you have the classic symptoms and are not at high risk for post-flu complications. Antiviral medications like Tamiflu are recommended only for individuals at high risk for post-flu complications. These include young children, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease and people with compromised immune systems.

Don't let the sun go down before you resolve to do all you can to avoid the flu and to protect your family and coworkers should you get the flu despite your best efforts. Follow the simple steps I've described and start dreaming of spring!

Thanks, AND STAY HEALTHY!

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About Author

Gale Adcock

Chief Health Officer

Gale Adcock, SAS Chief Health Officer, is a nurse practitioner with 30+ years of health care experience. She has helped evolve the SAS Health Care Center to a 55 staff member, full service primary care center seeing an average of 156 patients a day and saving SAS in excess of $5 million a year in avoided health insurance expenditures and employee time savings.

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