Prevent and manage seasonal flu with good hygiene

Flu season is just around the corner. Good hygiene can help prevent the flu, lessen its symptoms and pave the way back to good health.

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that is different from the common cold virus. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can even lead to death.

Some people, such as older people, young children and people with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems, are at a higher risk for serious complications. Many people who fall in these categories chose to prevent the flu by getting yearly vaccinations.

If you do get the flu Michigan State University Extension recommends these five important steps to take:

  1. Stay at home and rest. Don’t be a “Flu Freddie” or “Flu Florence” and spread the virus into the world.
  2. Avoid close contact with well people in your house so you won’t make them sick. Sneeze or cough into a tissue, which you throw away carefully. Wash your hands often.
  3. Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids to prevent dehydration or fluid loss.
  4. Treat fever and cough with over-the-counter medication.
  5. If you get very sick, are pregnant or have a chronic condition like asthma, diabetes or heart disease that puts you at higher risk of flu complications, call your health care professional. You might need prescription medication to help you feel better.

The flu “bug” is spread from person to person, mainly by droplets spread when people with the flu sneeze, cough or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths, noses or eyes of people who are nearby or can be inhaled into the lungs. A person might also get flu by touching a surface or object, like a doorknob, telephone, remote control or keyboard that has the flu virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.

Here’s how you can keep yourself and your family healthy during flu season, which is October through May:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If family members become ill with the flu, give each person their own drinking glass, washcloth and towels. Use separate bathrooms, if possible.
  • If your co-workers come to work sick try to persuade them to go home; at the least sanitize doorknobs, telephones, keyboards and other communally touched surfaces. Do the same if people in your home become ill.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth, so germs don’t enter your body.
  • Take antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

For more information on seasonal influenza visit the Centers for Disease Control website. For information on the management and prevention of chronic conditions or other issues of interest to families, contact your local MSU Extension health and nutrition expert by visiting or call 1-888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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