Caregiver's Home Companion

Posted: December 16, 2003

Dangerous Flu Season

Caregivers and Their Elderly Must Take Precautions

This year's flu season is especially harsh, and in some cases has been fatal. Those particularly at risk are the young and elderly, but caregivers - already stressed and often weakened by the press of their caregiving challenge - must also take extra care with their health in this flu season.

Caregivers and their elderly family should make an annual habit of getting flu vaccinations, but those who did not in recent weeks have found many sources of shots (doctor's offices, clinics, etc.) either out of the serum or critically low on doses.

Still you may find some relief: the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) recently announced the purchase of 250,000 additional doses of flu vaccine, and the first 100,000 of those doses are about to start reaching state health departments for distribution. The remaining 150,000 doses are due in January, and HHS is considering the purchase of even more doses of the vaccine.

Discount Prescriptions
It is not too late to vaccinate. Caregivers should contact their primary physician or state health department for instructions on where best to locate vaccinations in their area.

In the meantime, be aware of the facts about flu to help protect yourself and your family:

?  Flu spreads most often from an infected person's coughing and droplets from the cough landing on another person, often the face. When your hand comes in contact with these droplets, then they rub your eyes or scratch your nose or touch your mouth, you can contract the flu germ.

?  You can also get the flu from sharing cups, glasses, or other household objects used by a person who has the flu. Be sure to wash everything thoroughly - including your hands, with soap, very frequently. The flu virus can live on a phone or desk for up to an hour, depending on the moisture in the air and the room temperature. You can kill the virus on these objects with alcohol or any other cleaner that kills germs.

?  According to the Center for Disease Control, you are contagious one day before symptoms actually appear (and as quickly as one day after exposure to flu). However, you aren't likely to spread the infection until you start coughing or sneezing.

?  The incubation period for flu is two to five days. Then you may develop a mild headache, a few aches and pains and a low fever. The next day you have a high fever and are likely to have a runny nose. Most adults are contagious for about five to seven days. Young children are contagious longer.

?  Flu and colds have similar symptoms, and people often don't know the difference. Both can cause respiratory symptoms, such as runny nose, coughing and sore throat. However, the flu virus usually causes more intense symptoms, such as sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches in adolescents and adults. Unlike symptoms of the common cold, the fatigue and cough caused by flu can last up to two weeks.

For more information, visit CDC's website

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