Flu Season

5 Ways to Prevent the Spread of the Flu

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

As flu activity continues to be widespread in Michigan, Katherine Reyes, M.D., MPH, medical director of Henry Ford’s Infection Prevention and Control, offers these 5 tips to help prevent the spread of germs:

  1. Get your flu shot. The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself, and it’s not too late to get vaccinated. Adequate supply is still available. While it may not stop you from getting the flu, the vaccine helps lessen the symptoms and decrease the risk for complications. Anyone six months and older should get a flu shot every year.
  1. If you’re sick, stay home. Rest and drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated. Avoid going out to prevent the spread of germs.
  1. Wash your hands. Frequent hand washing is essential, especially before touching your face and mouth. Soap and water is best; if not available, use alcohol-based sanitizing gel or wipes.
  1. Clean and disinfect your home and office. Some germs can stay on hard surfaces like door handles and countertops for at least 24 hours.
  1. Talk to your doctor. If you have flu-like symptoms, call your doctor to discuss medication specific for flu. Treatment can lessen the duration of your symptoms and prevent complications, like those associated with this year’s most troublesome strain, H3N2. This is especially true for children ages five and under, seniors ages 65 and older and those who have chronic medical conditions like diabetes, asthma or heart disease, or who are pregnant.

Treatment of the Flu

If you do get the flu, there are prescription medicines called “antiviral drugs” that can be used to treat flu illness. These medicines are prescribed by a doctor and are not sold over the counter. When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days. They also can prevent serious complications like pneumonia.

Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick. However, starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person is at high risk of serious flu complications or is very sick from the flu.

The flu is a virus, so antibiotics will not effectively treat flu symptoms.

When the Flu Becomes Serious

If you or your child become ill and have any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care right away:

Warning signs in children

  • Fast breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Irritability so bad the child does not want to be held
  • Symptoms improving, then returning with fever and worse cough

Warning signs in adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Symptoms improving, then returning with fever and worse cough

Need a flu shot? Henry Ford Health System offers walk-in flu shots at these locations. Also, if you or your child is sick, check out our many convenient same-day care options at henryford.com/sameday.

Dr. Katherine Reyes is a physician in the Henry Ford Department of Infectious Diseases and medical director of infection prevention and control for Henry Ford Health System. She sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

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