Health Information

Nurse’s Office

What is a cold or flu?

Influenza (also called Flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The Flu virus H1N1 (Swine flu), is just one of the many types of flu viruses. Flu viruses spread mainly from person to person by breathing in the virus on microscopic water droplets released from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. The virus can be spread indirectly by touching something contaminated with flu viruses and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes; or by eating or drinking from an infected person’s eating utensils. Most people can infect others 1 day before symptoms appear and up to 5 days after becoming sick.

Symptoms of the flu usually include a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit and greater), chills, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, muscle ache in the shoulders and back, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, stomach ache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Cold (also caused by a virus) symptoms are associated only with the respiratory system. Complications of the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

Treatment of a cold or flu illness consists mainly of getting plenty of bed rest, drinking lots of fluids, and eating nourishing but mild foods. Some doctors recommend giving acetaminophen (Tylenol), to help relieve a fever. Never give aspirin or an aspirin containing product to a child or teen that has a temperature. The use of aspirin in such circumstances has been associated with a rare but very serious illness called Reye syndrome. If you are in doubt about the use of a medication, please consult your health care provider. Antibacterial medications are not used to treat viral infections. The only time an antibacterial would be prescribed is if there was a secondary bacterial infection complicating the flu.

There are antiviral medications available for use, but only under a doctor’s care. Flu symptoms can last up to a week to ten days, and should run their course and disappear on their own with palliative treatment. It is recommended that an individual stay at home at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, without the use of fever reducing medication. If the symptoms become worse, the doctor needs to be notified. The symptoms to be aware of are: fast or troubled breathing, bluish or gray skin color, not drinking enough fluids, not waking up or not interacting, not urinating or no tears when crying, increased irritability, the symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

How do we protect ourselves from the Flu Bug?
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination every year. This is the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus). It is recommended for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions. The nasal-spray vaccine (containing live, weakened flu virus), is approved for use in healthy people 5 years to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection. People who have a severe allergy to eggs should not be vaccinated. If there is any question about whether or not you should receive the vaccine, please consult your health care provider.

Being aggressive with your own personal care is another way to protect yourself from being infected by the flu virus. Wash your hands often! A 30-second scrub with lots of soap and rinsing with running water can rid the skin of the majority of particles carrying viruses. Use hand sanitizers containing 62 percent alcohol if soap and water is not available. Fingernails should be kept clean and trimmed short. Hands should be washed before eating and drinking, or preparing food, and after playing with a pet, caring for a person who is ill, handling soiled garments or objects, and using the bathroom.

If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue or your shoulder or arm, not your hands, to cover your mouth. Discard soiled tissues properly. Keep household surfaces, counter tops and sinks, clean; as well as towels, washrags, dishes, food prep and eating utensils. Maintain your own immune system by eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise and rest. By using good common sense and basic precautions, we can all do or best to stay healthy this season.

Did you know?

Diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce or use insulin. Some facts to ponder: about 2 million adolescents aged 12-19 have prediabetes, Diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in 2007, complications associated with Diabetes include heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, and kidney disease. Learn more at

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is calculated from a person’s height and weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Learn more at

Healthy Relationships are about trust, honesty, and compromise.
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