Flu season is like the dreaded elementary school friend that comes back every year. Maybe at first you want to be friends with the flu to miss school, but realization soon sets in: this is not a friend you want to be around. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, the flu comes back every year. Here are some tips and advice from Utah health care providers on ways to avoid that unsavory friend.
If someone comes to work sick, "do your best, if possible, to avoid any types of close contact," said Valoree Vernon, Epidemiologist at Utah Department of Health. "Don't touch or shake their hand."
If desk space is shared, Vernon recommends distancing yourself from the sick person to limit exposure.
"If you're feeling sick, you shouldn't go to work — period. You could be contagious for two to three days, maybe longer," Ryan White, director of communication said, citing information from an ER doctor from Mountain Star Timpanogos Regional Hospital.
Both White and Vernon said people working in health care and schools should avoid work if they're sick, because they're the most likely to be in contact with high-risk people.
If you have to come to work sick, Vernon said to always cover your mouth or nose with a tissue and throw it away right after.
"Continuously wash your hands with soap and water, and if that's not available, the alcohol-based gels are great," she said. "But the best thing to do is just to stay home, not just for you, but for others as well."
"If you're vaccinated, you're surrounding newborns with that protection because you're not going to be bringing something home," Vernon said.
Babies under six months old aren't able to get the flu vaccine, which leaves it up to the parents to keep their babies healthy and strong.
"One of the most important things is if you don't have to take them out of the house — don't," said White.
Keep newborns away from highly populated areas because it'll be harder to isolate them, Vernon said.
Politely asking people who are sick to not touch your newborn or keep a safe distance so as not to breathe on the baby is important. If sick individuals must hold the baby, ask them to wear a mask.
Washing hands can be key in keeping the flu from circulating around the family.
"If there's a cough or other things, maintain a distance. Our ER doctor said a six foot radius is really the best, especially if someone is coughing," White said.
Vernon recommends that if a family member with the flu is spending family time at dinner or watching a movie, etc., to have them wear a mask.
"Even though it's not pleasant or fun, it's another option for families."
The best recommendation for avoiding the flu is getting a flu shot. Shots are typically around $25 at providing health clinics or pharmacies, while some jobs may offer a vaccine.
The flu shot typically begins working about two weeks after it is given, according to the CDC.
"Even if they are vaccinated, isolation is the best," said Vernon.
Coughing and sneezing into the crease of your arm, where the elbow is, will reduce spreading the flu from germs on the hand, said White.
According to the CDC, symptoms of the flu could include all or some of these signs:
> Fever or feeling feverish
> Sore throat
> Runny or stuffy nose
> Muscle or body aches
> Vomiting and diarrhea
"The way flu is spread is through droplets — like coughing and sneezing," Vernon said.
Breathing in those droplets in the air is primarily how they spread, she said.