Cold and flu season is here - protect yourself

  • Published
  • By Maj. Cheryl Magnuson
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The cold and flu season is definitely here and will likely be around for several weeks. In this part of Asia, an increase in respiratory ailments tends to coincide with the colder weather, similar to what happens in North America.

Cold and flu viruses are spread primarily by breathing airborne virus particles, usually from someone coughing or sneezing. Transmission may also occur by direct contact with contaminated objects like telephones or doorknobs, since the influenza virus may persist for hours, particularly in the cold and in low humidity.

Practicing these good health habits can help prevent colds and flu:

· Wash your hands often to protect yourself from germs, especially after coughing or sneezing. Using antibacterial gels, liquid hand cleaners or wipes are a good alternative when hand washing isn't practical.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or 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.
· Disinfect common surfaces like desktops, countertops, door handles, phones, microwaves, elevator buttons, game consoles and computer keyboards. This is especially important in dormitories - use disinfectant products to clean common areas frequently.
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick. And if you're sick, keep your distance (about three feet) from others to protect them from getting sick too.
· Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Remember to appropriately dispose of used tissues. Handkerchiefs may be used but should never be shared.
· Sneeze or cough into your sleeve (elbow) if you don't have a tissue - not your hands.
· As always -- exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet and get adequate sleep (seven to eight hours).

A flu vaccination is your best chance to protect against the flu. All active-duty members are required to get an annual flu vaccine. However, flu strains may vary from area to area, so if you get a strain of the flu that is not the same strain as the one your flu vaccine protects against, you may still get the flu. Vaccination will still lessen the severity of your symptoms.
Colds are more common than flu and usually produce signs of congestion, coughing, sneezing and a runny nose. Flu symptoms are usually more intense and may include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, muscle aches and stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

If you get a cold or the flu, you will need to do the following:

· Stay home and away from others when you are sick. Your supervisor can put you on 24-hour quarters and you may call for an appointment at the clinic (782-5227) or come in for sick call at 7:45 a.m.
· Rest
· Drink plenty of liquids (juices, water, broth, noncarbonated drinks, etc.)
· Make sure that you eat even if it is only lightly (gelatin, toast, applesauce, chicken soup, hot cereal, etc.)
· Avoid using alcohol and tobacco products
· Consider use of over-the-counter medications per package instructions to relieve the symptoms of colds and flu

It is a good idea to keep cold and flu survival supplies in your room just in case. You may want to keep a supply of fruit juice, applesauce, canned soups, decongestants, tissues, non-aspirin pain and fever reliever, etc. to get you through about five to seven days of illness.

For more information on influenza, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or call your public health office at 782-4510/4509.