Avoiding the flu and keeping others healthy – it starts with you

BY TREVOR PFEIFER and TMN STAFF

With cold and flu season in full swing, it is important for everyone to do their part in preventing the spread of illnesses. While there may not be a foolproof method for avoiding sickness, there are many measures that can be taken against it.

One of the strongest defenses against seasonal sickness is getting an annual flu shot to prepare your immune system for any influenza virus it might encounter. Lynn Adams, director of the Student Health Center, also stresses the importance of getting the flu shot. While young, healthy individuals will almost always recover from influenza according to Adams, it is other individuals who may not be as healthy who are most affected by those who don’t get the flu shot. 

“You become a vector when you’re infected,” Adams said. “ Infants, the aged and immune-compromised patients are often unable to get vaccinated and the fact that you were not responsible enough to care for your own health means you could cause severe illness or death in others. You get the flu shot for your infant niece and 90-year old grandmother.”.

Adams also mentioned other basic germ-fighting habits, such as frequent handwashing for 20 seconds and properly covering coughs and sneezes. 

“Practice cough hygiene [and] cover coughs and sneezes,” Adams said. “Cough [or] sneeze into your shirt or into your elbow or shoulder to avoid spraying airborne viruses about the room.”

Adams went on to explain that if a student is ill, staying home from class can help them recover faster and prevent the spread of illness. He said professors can be informed as to why students are missing.

“Stay home if you are ill,” Adams said. “Students can have a notice sent to instructors by calling the Student Affairs Office at 785-628-4277.

According to Adams, preventing illness starts as soon as the symptoms show up as fever, body aches and chills are often accompanying symptoms to a contagious infection.

“Most people with minor illness can convalesce at home by resting, drinking water, and taking over-the-counter medications for symptom relief,” Adams said. “Seek professional help when you experience excessive pain, debilitating fatigue or when symptoms continue beyond the normal course of a routine illness.”

Adams also advises seeking additional professional help if someone encounters a fever lasting longer than 24 hours, a persistent sore throat, difficulty breathing, ear pain or ear drainage.

Should students find themselves feeling unwell this flu-season, the medical staff at the Student Health Center includes a physician, nurse practitioners and registered nurses available to assist. Adams says students can get advice and recommendations on over-the-counter medications for symptom relief from the registered nurses and stocks many such medications for purchase. Students can also be evaluated by the physician or nurse practitioner to receive antibiotic prescriptions if needed. 

“The Student Health Center offers in-house laboratory tests for influenza, strep, mononucleosis and other infections,” Adams said. “Laboratory tests must be ordered by a physician or nurse practitioner so they are not available by request.

The health center also stocks minor medical supplies such as hand sanitizer, masks, tissue or a thermometer that can be requested at the front desk. 

The Student Health Center hours are 8:00 am – 4:30 pm Monday through Friday and can be located in the lower level of the Memorial Union. They can also be reached via phone at 785-628-4293.

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