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Clinical Corner: 2018 Flu Season

Flu Season

How are you navigating the nasty 2018 flu season?

By Kora Behrens, Clinical Nurse Manager, Medical Solutions

By now, you’ve no doubt heard that the 2018 flu season has made its way across the entire nation. So far this flu season, the influenza virus has claimed the lives of many Americans of all ages. In fact, this is the first year the flu’s had the same activity at the same time across the entire United States. Currently, the flu season is at its peak and we as nurses and healthcare providers must be diligent in preventing the spread and impact that it has for our patients across the nation. One way to prevent and minimize the chain reaction of events with the flu is to learn as much as possible about it including common myths about the flu, prevention techniques, treatment, and how the flu is spread.

Let’s first dive into how the flu is spread. Influenza can be spread between others from as far as approximately six feet away. It is spread by the droplets made by people when they sneeze, cough, or talk. These droplets can then either land in another’s mouth or nose. It can also be spread when a person touches a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touches their own mouth or nose. To avoid the spread of these germs you should stay away from others who are sick, wash your hands as often as possible, and avoid sharing any utensils, linens, or dishes belonging to someone who is sick. Most people will spread the flu up to one day prior to symptoms occurring and up to 5-7 days after getting sick. If you feel that you may have contracted the flu from someone, you should notice that symptoms will occur 1-4 days after the virus enters the body.

In addition to avoiding others who have the flu, it’s equally important to adopt other prevention strategies to minimize any risk of getting sick. The best way to prevent contracting the flu is to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October before the flu season hits. For the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC recommends an injectable vaccine rather than the nasal spray that has been used in past flu seasons.

In the event that you do get sick with the flu, it’s imperative that you stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. This will help tremendously in preventing any spreading of the flu virus to others. Other preventative techniques include covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, to avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and to clean and disinfect surfaces as often as possible.

If you do what you can to prevent the flu, but still manage to contract it in some way do not panic — there is treatment available. The treatment of choice for the flu is usually antiviral medications. When antivirals are used, they can lessen symptoms and shorten the amount of time that you are sick by 1-2 days. They can also help to prevent further complications related to the flu, like pneumonia. Studies show that antiviral drugs used to treat the flu work better when started within two days of getting sick. However, starting them later can be beneficial if the sick person has any risk factors for complications related to the flu. If you do not know for sure if you have the flu, it’s best to see a doctor if you’re displaying any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and/or sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.

The last thing that’s important to understand about the flu are the common myths and misconceptions with the flu vaccine. First and foremost, many people often believe that getting the flu shot makes them sick. This is a common misconception because the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu because the vaccine is either an inactivated virus or it contains no flu viruses at all. If you happen to come down with a low-grade fever, headache, or muscles aches following the shot that does not mean you are sick; it is a side effect or reaction to the vaccine. Another common misconception from some is that even though they receive the vaccine they still manage to get sick during the flu season. The reason for this is one of the following explanations: they contracted another virus different than influenza, they got sick prior to developing immunity to the virus, or they were exposed to a flu virus that is different from the one that was contained in their vaccine. Understanding these misconceptions can help many — including nurses and healthcare professionals — not only remain healthy, but also able to educate patients so they can advocate for vaccines and prevention.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Sarah Wengert, a creative content writer for the amazing Medical Solutions based in Omaha, Nebraska. While I'm not a Travel Nurse, I love to travel and I truly appreciate the hard, important work that nurses do. I'm very happy to represent a company that cares so much about its people. Thanks for reading!

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