Stay Safe and Healthy During Flu Season

By Susan Boisvert, BSN, MHSA, CNO, Parkview Adventist Medical Center

Susan BoisvertIt's that time of year again, when the temperature plummets and the warm breezes summer are still months away. It is also the time when hospitals and health care providers see an increasing amount of patients with flu-like symptoms. This is the time when more and more people come down with the Flu. Especially vulnerable are the elderly, the chronically ill and children, especially those in school. While Flu shots are recommended, there are some additional measures you can take to protect yourself and your family.

Marian Laroche, FNP, Employee Health Coordinator for Parkview Adventist Medical Center says, "It isn't just polite, covering your mouth when you cough can drastically reduce the spread of infectious disease. Washing your hands is probably the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others." Parkview Vice President, Sheryl McWilliams, runs the wellness and health education programs at the hospital. She advocates that people drink plenty of water, reduce their sugar intake, get physically active, and stay home when they are sick. " Your just making things worse for yourself and those around you if you go to work or school sick. Stay home until you have been not had a fever for 24 hours."

Schools are particularly vulnerable to the spread of colds, flu and gastrointestinal outbreaks. According to the CDC, approximately 1/5 of the US population attends or works in schools. Some viruses can live up to 2 hours or more on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs and desks. How can you keep your school age child healthy? Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep, regular physical activity, drinks water and eats a healthy diet. Teach your child to wash his/her hands often with either soap and water, or alcohol based hand rub. Remind your child not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth as germs are often spread this way. If your child is sick (headache, fever, cough, vomiting or diarrhea) keep them home from school or daycare.

These same precautions apply to the elderly and the chronically ill. Anyone with a compromised immune system or over age 65 should consider getting a Flu shot. These people should also pay close attention to hand washing and healthy living practices. In these populations, the Flu can be very serious and must be treated as soon as symptoms arise. Even if they are not sure if it is the flu, they should contact their primary care providers as soon as possible to be safe.

If you or someone in your household is sick, in addition to staying home, there are a few things you should also be conscience of. Rest. Limit screen time (television, computer, and video games) and try listening to music in a darkened room. Drink plenty of fluids. If nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea are present, stick to clear liquids (apple juice, broth, water, or tea). Children should not be given aspirin to control a fever. Other medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) are safer. Ask your doctor what he or she recommends. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, dispose of tissues in the trash and don't let them pile up on your bedside table. And of course, wash your hands often. Lastly, don't hesitate to call your doctor if you feel you are getting worse or you are afraid to manage your symptoms at home.

For more information, visit or call the CDC Flu Information Line at 1-800-CDC-INFO.

Susan Boisvert, BSN, MHSA, is the Vice President of Clinical Services/CNO at Parkview Adventist Medical Center. She has 26 years of experience in the healthcare industry, largely in Maine. She is an expert in small rural hospital quality improvement. Throughout her career, she has served in leadership roles in local, state and national healthcare organizations. She has been published in local, regional and national publications. Most recently she has been named to the editorial board of the Journal for Healthcare Quality. Please visit learn more about our services and health education classes.


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