Viewpoint 181: Avoiding the season of sickness
There are easy, everyday actions that prevent the spread of influenza germs.
Influenza or “the flu” is a respiratory illness caused by an influenza virus. People infected with the flu may cough and have a sore throat and fever. They may also have a runny or stuffy nose, feel tired, have body aches, or show other signs they are not well. The flu happens every year and is more common in the fall and winter. People of all ages can get the flu, from babies to the elderly.
People who have the flu can spread the virus by coughing or sneezing. Droplets are released when a sick person coughs, sneezes, or talks and can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. People may also catch the flu by touching their mouth or nose after touching something with the virus on it, such as doorknobs, tables, or an infected person’s dirty hand.
There are easy, everyday actions that prevent the spread of germs. These include staying away from people who are sick, frequent handwashing and cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated with flu viruses. The Health Services department at Brainerd Public Schools is doing its part to prevent the spread of the influenza virus by providing handwashing instruction and by placing “Cover Your Cough” and handwashing posters in the school buildings. Friday Fit Tip notices, Warrior Wellness Tips, and the Health Services webpage also have information about reducing infection.
The best way to protect against the flu is to get an annual flu shot. There is plenty of flu vaccine available and it is never too late to get the shot. Influenza vaccinations are recommended for everyone 6 months and older but they are especially important for young children 6 months to 5 years old, adults age 65 and older, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, people living with or caring for those at high risk for complications from influenza, and health care workers. Children of any age with certain long-term health problems are at high risk for flu complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. Some health problems that are known to make children more vulnerable to flu include asthma and diabetes.
Contact your medical provider if your sick child seems to have any symptoms that are severe or concerning. Go to the emergency room if your child is having difficulty breathing, bluish lips or face, chest pain, has symptoms of dehydration such as no urine for 8 hours and crying without tears, or a fever above 104 degrees.
People who have the flu may be able to infect others from one day before getting sick to up to five to seven days after. Your child should stay home from school when ill to rest and to avoid spreading the flu to other children or school staff. Keep your child home for at least 24 hours after they are fever free. A fever is defined as a temperature of 100 degrees of higher. The fever should be gone without the use of fever reducing medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. The child should also feel well enough to be able to participate in school activities.
For more information about the flu, visit the influenza websites for the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/flu or the Minnesota Department of Health at www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/flu/ .