It’s cold and flu season, peeps! A school nurse’s favorite time of the year! It’s a time when everyone is coughing and sneezing all over each other, spreading lovely little germies everywhere. It’s dozens of kids (and teachers) out of school for weeks, making it difficult for those who are at school and work to get anything done. It’s a time where many other people drag themselves to work not feeling well because they can’t get coverage, or they fear retribution from their bosses. Those same people may be sending their kids to school…clearly too ill to make it through the day, but spreading the germs all the same. It’s the time of year when my office is swamped from the moment I arrive to the moment I leave at the end of the day, forcing me to hold my bladder and eat my lunch standing up. It’s the time of year I get panicked phone calls from parents asking “is there’s something going around?” (FYI, there’s ALWAYS something going around.) It’s the time of year when teachers call my office phone, losing their minds because someone IS COUGHING AND WON’T STOP AND OMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!
Let’s relax everyone. It’s the flu. Yes, you might get it. Yes, I might get it, too. Yes, it’s terrible and miserable. Yes, the flu sucks. Yes, people DO die from the flu. MOST of those people have depressed immune systems or die from a secondary illness. Yes, sometimes healthy people die from the flu. You want to know WHY you’ve read about so many healthy people dying this year? Because it’s RARE, so when it does happen, it becomes NEWS.
But I get it…you still don’t want the flu. Hell, I don’t want the flu. Although, I haven’t had the flu in over twenty years. Seventeen years working in the school system, I’ve built up a pretty damn good immune system. That’s what happens when you’re constantly coughed on, puked on, sneezed on, vomited on, and in one extreme case…pooped on. So how do I prevent the flu, you ask? Well, I wouldn’t recommend building up a tolerance like mine because it involves eating at your desk while trying to get your salad out of the way of the nearest puker. There’s a lot of misinformation going around the internet (who doesn’t love the fact that half the things you read on the internet are completely false????), so it makes it difficult to figure out what really might help and what is just wishful thinking. I’ll help you out by breaking it down for you as best as I can:
- If you have a fever or your kid has a fever…STAY HOME! That means, don’t go to work or school. Don’t go to the grocery store. Don’t go out to eat. I’ve seen a lot of people this year with flu-like symptoms and NO fever as well. If you really feel crappy, do yourself a favor (and everyone else), take a day off to make sure you’re not coming down with anything more serious.
- Don’t be gross. If you have a cold, cover your nose when you sneeze or cough. If you have boogers dripping down your face, be classy and use a tissue, not your hand or your sleeve. This prevents the spread of illness and also prevents people from giving you dirty looks.
- Try to avoid a lot of contact with other people’s hands. You seriously don’t know where those hands have been and what’s on them.
- Do your research on the flu shot. I am not advocating the flu shot, nor am I discouraging it. I’m just saying, actually RESEARCH it…don’t just take someone else’s word for it. And bear in mind, if you do get the shot, it does not guarantee that you won’t get the flu. The flu shot is about 10% effective this year, which sometimes happens because the vaccine is made with the past flu viruses that the vaccine manufacturers think is going to be a problem for the upcoming flu season.
- You cannot get the flu by going outside with a wet head or wearing shorts when it’s 32 degrees out. Germs cause illnesses, not the air temperature. (This one is mostly for my mother-in-law who argues with me about this all the time. According to her, wet heads caused the black plague, too.)
- You can help stave the flu by staying as healthy as you can during flu season—this means, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise. Yes, go outside for a few minutes everyday, even if it’s cold. The sunshine works wonders.
- Do not stick antibiotic cream up your nose. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently there’s this “Way to prevent the flu” circulating that states nurses are telling their patients to line their nostrils with antibiotic ointment to “trap” flu germs. A couple things wrong with this: First off…the flu is a VIRUS. Antibiotics treat BACTERIA. Secondly, the flu is spread by droplet transmission. You can still get the flu via your mouth or on your hands. Thirdly, no nurse would tell you to do this.
- Which leads me to THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO PREVENT THE FLU (and strep, and stomach viruses, and colds, ringworm, and a host of other icky things): WASH YOUR HANDS. Yes, really. That’s the most effective way. No, do not buy stock in hand sanitizer. That’s not washing your hands (and hand sanitizer overuse can actually make it more difficult for you to ward off illness over time). Use soap, warm water, and sing the ABC song. If you only take one thing away from this blog, let it be this.
Good luck and stay healthy, my friends!