Shield Yourself Against the Flu

Flu Prevention Tips That Can Help You Stay Healthy

(Photo courtesy of UPMC MyHealth Matters.)

(Photo courtesy of UPMC MyHealth Matters.)

By Meenakshi Kodati, Correspondent

The month of October means that flu season is just around the corner. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. We at The Buchtelite care about your health and well-being, so we’ve put together some precautions to help you keep the flu viruses at bay.

The first thing you’d want to do to stay healthy this semester is to get a flu shot. According to CDC, the yearly flu vaccine is the first and most important step in guarding yourself against the flu viruses.

There are many types of flu viruses. The flu vaccine will protect you against the viruses that, according to research, will be most common this year. CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older should get a flu shot. It takes two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body, so it’s better not to wait until the start of the flu season to get the vaccination. The ideal time would be before the end of October.

According to CDC, children below 5 years of age, pregnant women, people who are 65 years or older, and people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung diseases are at a high risk of developing complications from the flu. Some of these complications include sinus, ear infections and even pneumonia. It is therefore very important that they get vaccinated. It is also important for healthcare workers and those who take care of children younger than 6 months to take the vaccination as they are in constant contact with high-risk individuals.

All currently-enrolled students can get a flu shot at the University’s Health Services Office. “If you are insured through the University with the SEBT health plan, you can receive the flu shot at no cost by presenting your insurance card. Dependents of students, however, cannot avail this service for free as the SEBT plan does not cover for their flu shots. Vaccination for those not insured through University is available at $20,” said Megan Nichols, a nurse at the Health Services Office. “Flu shots will be administered on a walk-in basis on Oct. 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Outside of this time-frame, students must schedule an appointment for their flu shots,” she added. If you wish to attend the walk-in, visit Suite 206, in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center during the aforesaid hours. If you miss the walk-in, call 330-972-7808 to make an appointment with the Health Services for your flu shot. Do not forget to carry your insurance card if you are a part of the SEBT health plan.

If you have health insurance, check with your primary health care provider if you can get the vaccination at no cost. Flu shots are also available at various community and retail clinics like CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens. Some stores like Target and Giant Eagle are also giving out a $5 coupon if you get a flu shot in the pharmacies within their stores.

The flu vaccine aside, the best defense against flu viruses is good hygiene practices. Wash your hands frequently, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as germs spread easily that way. As per the Health and Safety page of the University website, flu viruses remain active for nearly 2-8 hours after being deposited on a hard surface. So make sure you frequently clean and disinfect all hard surfaces that may be contaminated with germs. These practices go a long way in protecting you not just from flu but from many other contagious diseases.

A flu-like illness is often characterized by sudden onset of fever, sore throat, muscle aches, cough and weakness. According to Mayo Clinic, an average healthy person can recover from flu within 2 weeks, provided proper rest and self-care measures are taken. But it is highly recommended that you call a doctor if a high-risk person or someone who takes care of a high-risk person is seen with the symptoms.

Viral illnesses are very common on college campuses. It is therefore advisable that you take the flu vaccination as soon as possible and practice all the necessary hygiene habits to stay healthy this flu season. Do your best to stay away from the flu, because, as the old adage goes, “Prevention is better than cure.”