Prevention best medicine, but other tips can help fight flu, too

Thursday, December 28, 2006
For the 15th year, local special needs children have received assistance from Buzzi Unicem (Lone Star Industries), Buzzi Unicem Alternate Fuels and Local D39 of the Boilermaker's Union. This year, two families received handicapped equipment for their special needs, while employee donations provided cash and gift cards to the Senior Center, A-Way Home Shelter and the New Providence Baptist Church Food Pantry. At the presentation were (from left) Santa, Dan Baker with twin sons Joseph and Daniel, and Joe and Melinda Walker with Caleb and Abigail. Joseph Baker, 5, received a reverse kaye walker, while Caleb Walker, 5, received a portable aluminum wheelchair ramp.

Staff Writer

There are a number of sources out there that offer tips for dealing with and preventing the flu.

The Putnam County Health Department urges people to practice good hygiene habits, including frequent handwashing. They also suggest coughing into a tissue or into the inside of your arm, rather than your hand, as germs pass more quickly from hand to hand.

For children, parents should watch for signs of a fever and keep their children home from school because they are very contagious at this stage.

"If their child has a fever, they should not send them to school," Putnam County Health Officer Dr. Robert Heavin said.

The schools themselves can do their part in making sure their students remain as healthy as possible. Almost one-fifth of the nation's population attends or works in schools, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

School officials are asked to remind students to cover their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, washing their hands often with soap and water, and refraining from touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Once a person gets the flu, Dr. Heavin says the best thing to do is stay home, stay in bed and drink lots of liquids to avoid becoming dehydrated.

There are other, less scientific but heartfelt methods of treating the flu, including everyone's favorite bowl of hot chicken noodle soup.

Dr. Heavin said there is no scientific evidence to prove that this works, but he encourages people to try any method that works for them.

Also there are various medications, such as Tamiflu, which drug makers say can reduce the length of time a person has the flu.

Dr. Heavin said those medications, taken in the form of two pills for five consecutive days, only work if they are started within 12-24 hours from the time that flu symptoms first appear.

One treatment that clearly does not work, Dr. Heavin said, is taking antibiotics. Some physicians will prescribe them to a person who is diagnosed with the flu, but they have little effect on the virus and can actually lead to drug resistance over time.

Various over-the-counter methods for keeping the flu at bay include vitamins and herbal treatments such as echinacea.

Dr. Heavin said some people have reported success with these methods, "but scientifically it's questionable."

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the single best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated in one of two ways.

People can contact their doctor or local clinic to have a flu shot or they can receive a nasal spray that works just as well but is an option for those who do not like receiving shots.

But with the flu vaccine comes a warning to people who are allergic to chicken eggs or chicken products. Dr. Heavin explained that chicken embryos are used by scientists in making the flu vaccine and people who have allergies to eggs should not receive the flu vaccine to avoid having a negative reaction.

Finally, many people who receive the flu shot but later come down with the flu, often blame the shot for making them sick.

Dr. Heavin said this is a myth. He said people can have a reaction to the flu shot within 24 hours of receiving it, but beyond that, it's merely coincidence that people get the flu after having the flu shot.

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