Get well soon, at home

Published 8:25 pm Friday, January 13, 2017

Flu season is here, and with it comes the annual spate of warnings from the medical community. Each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, millions of people are sickened, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from influenza.

At the risk of coming across as a nag, we’ll repeat the warnings here.

Get a flu shot: The CDC suggests getting a flu shot every year. Each season’s version of the flu is slightly different than the previous year’s version, so the shot is adjusted each year in an attempt to stay ahead of the virus. A very small percentage of those who receive the vaccine wind up exhibiting mild flu symptoms. On the other hand, a much larger percentage of people who do not get the vaccine wind up with the full effects of influenza. Make your own choice based on comparing those odds.

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Wash your hands: Seriously, this is one of the most important things you can do to avoid getting (or passing along) the flu and many other contagious diseases. It’s likely, in fact, that personal hygiene has made a bigger difference in reducing mortality than just about any medical procedure ever invented. And that’s true even within the realm of health care itself — think Florence Nightingale and her crusade against filthy hospitals. Wash your hands. Frequently. With soap and water. ‘Nuff said.

Cough and sneeze politely: The flu, in particular, is spread by the droplets a carrier expels when he sneezes or coughs. So cover your mouth, but since you might be shaking hands with someone later (and maybe you missed the part about washing your hands frequently), don’t cough (or sneeze) into your hand. Use a handkerchief or a tissue or use the “Dracula technique,” whereby you cover your mouth and nose with your elbow pit, known to science as the “antecubital space,” which should explain why we’re calling it the elbow pit. Whatever you call it, you’re not likely to be touching anyone else with that part of your body.

Stay home: If you’ve got the flu — fever, body aches, chills, respiratory distress and so on — please do the rest of your workmates a favor and stay home. Steam your stuffed sinuses in a hot shower and read a good book while eating a bowl of chicken soup. It might not make you get well any sooner, but it will help keep your friends and co-workers well. And they’ll surely appreciate that.