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December 2, 2009 > Avoid Getting Sick With the Flu

Avoid Getting Sick With the Flu

Washington Urgent Care Doctor Offers Ways to Stay Well

This year seasonal influenza has been joined by another flu strain called H1N1 influenza, also know as the "swine flu." Both types of flu are caused by a virus and can result in mild to severe illness. The best way to protect yourself from these flu strains is to get a vaccine, but due to slow production this year, there has been limited supplies of both the seasonal flu vaccine as well as the H1N1 flu vaccine so far. While you wait to get vaccinated, there are ways you can protect yourself and your family from serious illness, according to Dr. Sarkis Banipalsin, medical director at Washington Urgent Care.

"Avoid close contact with people who are sick," he said. "Keep your distance."

Flu viruses spread from person to person when people who are sick with the flu cough or sneeze and someone nearby breathes them in, according to Banipalsin. The viruses can also get on surfaces like door handles and counter tops.

"Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or us alcohol-based hand sanitizers," he said. "Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth because you may have touched contaminated surfaces."

Banipalsin said it's also important to maintain overall good health to reduce your chances of getting sick. "Get plenty of rest and sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods," he advised. "And quit smoking. According to the CDC, research studies have shown an increase in influenza infections among smokers compared to nonsmokers. There is also a higher mortality rate from influenza for smokers compared to nonsmokers."

Every year the seasonal flu kills about 36,000 people and so far the H1N1 flu has been responsible for an estimated 3,900 deaths nationwide since it first appeared in April 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While both the H1N1 and seasonal types of flu can cause hospitalizations and death, most healthy people can recover without medical attention, Banipalsin said.


Flu Care

If you or your child does get sick with the flu, there are steps you can take to help reduce its severity and prevent it from spreading to others.

Monitor your health. Flu symptoms usually come on quickly and generally include fever (over 100 ¡F), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, extreme tiredness, diarrhea and vomiting. If you or your child gets sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home from work and school, Banipalsin advised.

"Get plenty of rest and make sure to drink lots of water and other clear liquids," he said. "You can treat fevers with over-the-counter medications. Stay home and rest until you can make it at least 24 hours without a fever, without taking any fever-reducing medications."

You can avoid spreading the flu by covering your mouth with a tissue when you cough and immediately throwing the tissue away, according to Banipalsin. If you don't have a tissue, cough into the crook of your elbow. Stay away from others, including family members, until you are well and be sure to wash surfaces regularly with a disinfectant, he added.

Antiviral medications are available that can reduce the severity of the flu, but they are mostly recommended for those at high risk from serious complications, Banipaslin said. Those include pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems, people younger than 19 and on aspirin therapy, and people over age 65.

If you are in one of the risk groups, he recommends calling your healthcare provider if you experience flu-like symptoms. While most healthy people can care for themselves at home, Banipalsin said you should seek medical care if you have difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, or severe or persistent vomiting.

More shipments of the seasonal flu and H1N1 flu vaccine are expected in the coming weeks. Please call (510) 791-CARE (2273) or visit the Washington Urgent Care webpage: www.whhs.com/about/urgent-care for updated information and future availability of the vaccines. Washington Urgent Care is located on the second floor of Washington West at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont and is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year - to give you high quality care urgent care whether you have an appointment or not. For more information about the flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu.

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