Fight the Flu: Get a Vaccine, Protect Yourself and Others
A calendar of free flu clinics in Boston is available online at www.bphc.org/flu. Health officials encourage people to receive the flu vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) publishes information about the flu here.
“Vaccinations are the best prevention we have for the flu, and getting one is an easy, safe, and effective way for families and loved ones to stay healthy,” said Dr. Tom Hawkins, a medical director for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “It’s never too late in the season to get immunized and prevent unnecessary illness this flu season.”
- What You Should Know for the 2013-2014 Influenza Season
- Seasonal Influenza: Flu Basics
- Flu Symptoms and Severity
- Weekly Flu Report from Massachusetts Department of Public Health Blog
Are you traveling over the holidays? Watch this video about staying healthy during holiday travel.
The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol®. You should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.
Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs (From MGH Back Bay)
Last winter the flu hit Boston very hard. You can reduce your chance of getting sick by taking these precautions.
The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu. There also are flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent the flu.
1. Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.
2. Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
3. Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
4. Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
Do You Think You Have the Flu?
First, are you in the high-risk group?
We ask patients with flu symptoms to stay at home to help contain the flu. We do not even want to see them in the office unless they are considered a high-risk patient who needs more aggressive management.
People with conditions that puts them in high-risk category are:
- Children younger than 2 years old, and people aged 65 years or older
- Pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum (including following pregnancy loss)
- Persons of any age with certain chronic medical or immunosuppressive conditions
- Persons younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
Any students who meet that high-risk criteria AND have had symptoms for less than 48 hours should be seen at MGH—Back Bay to be treated with antiviral medication. Otherwise healthy people do not require the antiviral medication.
If a patient has any of the above conditions that puts him or her in the high-risk category and he or she has any complication of the flu (breathing that is fast, difficult or painful; dusky or bluish skin; chest pain; change in mental status; inability to walk, sit, or function normally; severe headache and stiff neck; severe sore throat with difficulty swallowing; repeated vomiting or diarrhea), that patient should be referred to the emergency department at MGH or other area hospitals.
What if you are you having mild or moderate flu symptoms but are not in a high-risk category?
People with mild or moderate symptoms who are not in a high-risk category should be advised to have the following supplies on hand: a thermometer, acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen, drinks (juices, sports drinks), and light food (popsicles, chicken broth, crackers, applesauce).
Practice good home treatment, including resting in bed, drinking lots of fluids (especially chicken broth, juices, water, Gatorade), taking nonaspirin pain relievers to reduce fever and pain every four hours (acetaminophen) or six hours (ibuprofen), keeping hands clean, staying home, and avoiding public activities for at least five days.
Call MGH at Back Bay (617 267-7171) for an evaluation if:
- your fever lasts more than 3-5 days
- your fever or cough goes away for 24 hours and then returns
- you're not able to drink fluids and your urine becomes dark or you have not urinated for more than 12 hours
- you develop a rash or notice other changes, or
- you have other concerns.
Seek emergency treatment in an emergency department for:
- breathing that is fast, difficult or painful
- dusky or bluish skin
- chest pain
- change in mental status
- inability to walk, sit, or function normally
- severe headache and stiff neck
- severe sore throat with difficulty swallowing
- repeated vomiting or diarrhea
Patients should refrain from all public activities for 24 hours after resolution of fever without the use of antipyretics. Students should not be in class with fever, cough, and other flu symptoms...we really advise avoiding class if you have both a fever and a cough, not one or the other.