Monday 28 September, 2020

Be prepared this flu season

Uh oh!

It's that season which could leave you home from work or school and have you confined to bed for days.

What season? It is flu season.

And this virus is spread easily if persons fail to stay out of public spaces as much as possible.

You could be sitting in the middle of a meeting or on the bus and the next thing you hear … 'Ahhhhhh choo!'  That is backed up with a chesty cough and a sniffle.  Behind that, you hear someone say, "I'm sorry" and although they may mean it, it's quickly followed by another cough and another sniffle.

Your mind starts racing as you tell yourself . . . 'I don’t want a cold!'

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In Barbados currently, there is a concern about the spike in respiratory illnesses on the island. So when you hear a cough or sneeze now, it doesn’t help to know that Senior Medical Officer of Health with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr Leslie Rollock has cautioned parents, teachers, employers and all citizens along with visitors about this increase in the cases of respiratory illness being recorded.

So how do you catch a respiratory illness like the common cold or flu?

When you think about it, it is really easy to catch a mild and self-limiting respiratory illness. The flu is spread mainly from person to person through droplets expelled when contagious people cough, sneeze or talk.

Some viruses can also live outside the body for a short period of time. So if someone coughs or sneezes on a surface you can catch it by touching said surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or possibly eyes.

When is someone contagious?

The thing is, people infected with the flu may be able to infect others from day one before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you even know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. And watch out…young children, those who are severely ill, and those who have severely weakened immune systems may be able to infect others for longer than five to seven days.

But what can you do? 

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Try to avoid coming into close contact with sick people.   Yeah we know it might not be easy but still try.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.   If a tissue is not at hand, you should cough or sneeze into the inside of the elbow.  
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs that can cause respiratory illnesses like flu . . . frequently touched objects and surfaces like doorknobs, keyboards, and phones.

Remember too, speak to your doctor about possibly getting a flu shot. That also helps.

And if it is a bit too late for prevention because the flu bug got you already, see your doctor.  Take any drugs that are prescribed, as early treatment is especially important. Take the full course of medication as well. Do not share the medicine with your friend or family member who starts presenting with the same or similar symptoms.

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