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The Flu: Staving It Off, Treating It Wisely

By Dateline Staff on December 3, 2019 in University

In the interest of a healthy community during flu season, we’ve compiled information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, and UC Davis Health and Student Health and Counseling Services on how you can hopefully avoid the illness, and how to treat it, including knowing when to make the wise choice of seeking medical help.

For prevention, the CDC advises flu shots for starters. And even though the flu season is already underway, a vaccination can still be of benefit, according to the CDC. Here’s where to start:

  • Students should call 530-752-2349 to make an appointment for a vaccination at the Student Health and Wellness Center.
  • If you are a UC Davis Health patient, call your clinic to inquire about the availability of walk-in vaccinations.
  • If you obtain your health care elsewhere, call your provider.

Separately, the CDC lays out six steps to help stop the spread of germs. UC Davis Health and Student Health and Counseling Services offer the same tips, all of which are about good health habits, including: Wash your hands often; avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth; and stay home when you are sick.

UC Davis Health states on its Flu Updates and Resources website: “No single action will provide complete protection from influenza, but, in addition to getting your yearly vaccination (if you are in a group recommended to receive it), an approach combining the following steps can help decrease the likelihood of transmission.”

Preventive steps

UC Davis Health advises the following, based on CDC guidance:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. And, when you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too. “Close contact” can generally be defined as a distance of up to 6 feet, according to the CDC.
  • Stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick, if possible. You will help prevent others from catching your illness. [Additional information from the CDC advises people to stay home until at least 24 hours after their fever (temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines.]
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Throw away the tissue and wash your hands when done.
  • Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs. The CDC generally recommends washing with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, you can use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers. Rub your hands until the gel is dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and 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.
  • Practice other good health habits. Support your immune system. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food. 

If flu symptoms strike

According to UC Davis Health, most people who get the flu require no specific treatment other than rest, lots of fluids and perhaps acetaminophen for fever (aspirin is not recommended). Probably the most important thing for a person with the flu is to try to keep from passing it on to someone else.

If you develop flu symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat and aches, UC Davis doctors recommend the following:

  • Stay home. Limit your visitors so you have contact with as few people as possible. 
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the tissue and wash your hands when done. 
  • Wash your hands frequently so you will not pass the virus from your hands to other people. Wash with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, you can use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers. Rub your hands until the gel is dry.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. 
  • You may take over-the-counter cough medications. Unless you have been told to avoid acetaminophen, you may use it for fever as instructed on the bottle.
  • Call your doctor if you do not start to feel better within five to seven days.

When to seek help

UC Davis Health cautions people with flu symptoms to pay attention to these caveats:

  • Call your doctor if you are pregnant, or 65 or older, or have emphysema, heart disease, diabetes or other chronic health problems. Also call your doctor if you have a child under 2 with flu symptoms.
  • See your doctor right away if you develop trouble breathing, cannot take fluids or have trouble thinking clearly. Call before you go, because your doctor may want to direct you to an urgent care clinic or emergency room depending on the severity of your symptoms. You may need to ask someone to drive you, depending on how you feel. Call 911 if you are having an emergency.

In addition, consultation with medical professionals is advised in certain cases of people who have been exposed to someone with the flu, as medication may be required to keep them from getting the illness. This applies to ages 2 and under and 65 and older, and people who are pregnant, or who have heart or lung disease, diabetes or other serious chronic conditions.

Flu resources

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About the author(s)

Dateline Staff Dave Jones, editor, can be reached at 530-752-6556 or dljones@ucdavis.edu. Cody Kitaura, news and media relations specialist, can be reached at 530-752-1932 or kitaura@ucdavis.edu.

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