Flu symptoms, prevention and how to find relief
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It's flu season, and although a week off from work might sound like a good idea, you don't want to spend it with a hacking cough, buried under comforters and wishing there was something else on TV besides soap operas.
How can you avoid getting the flu in the first place?
• Get a flu shot, the tip most cited by medical experts. And that's because it works. These days, many companies offer free flu shots to employees and most pharmacies offer low-cost shots. The flu vaccine not only protects against the most common strains of the virus, it also reduces the risk of severe flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
• Wash your hands. "We always recommend proper hand washing with the use of water and soap," said Dr. Oscar Alleyne, director of epidemiology at the Rockland County Department of Health. Don't just run your hands under the sink -- if you're serious about warding off the flu, you need to wash your hands "vigorously," Alleyne said.
• Use hand sanitizer, but use it sparingly. Killing surface-level bacteria by overusing hand sanitizer isn't an urban myth, Alleyne said. Experts recommend using hand sanitizer on the go; otherwise, traditional washing is the better option.
• Symptoms include fever, headaches and fatigue, according to WebMD. If you've got the flu, anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza, available by prescription only, can help if administered in the first 48 hours, but remedies such as rest, drinking water and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can provide relief as well.
• Stay home if you've got symptoms. You'll be doing yourself -- and your co-workers -- a favor. "One of the first things we do recommend is to ensure, if you do feel sick or symptomatic, avoid going to work or going to school, reducing the likelihood you'll spread your illness to others," Alleyne said.
The CDC recommends staying home for 24 hours after a fever subsides. To avoid infecting your family, clean and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated with flu germs.