Healthy Advice: Avoid the finals’ flu blues

The days are stretching, the temperature is rising and those chilly winter days and all that trudges around with them are well behind us. However, some of winter’s more annoying guests linger on. It’s still flu season and the flu isn’t just for chilly weather. Flu season lasts for seven months, October through May, so even though it’s warmer, those pesky little influenza viruses are still poised to wreak havoc on our immune systems.

David Delgado/The Daily Cougar

David Delgado/The Daily Cougar

While many of you may be thinking the flu is no big deal, it’s just a glorified cold, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says otherwise. According to the HHS, students should stay home for seven days, or until they don’t have symptoms for 24 hours, after first showing signs of the flu.

While missing a minimum of seven days of classes to catch up on “The Office” and guzzle down chicken noodle soup is tempting, the class work is going to pile on, and can be so hard to come back from. Prevention is the best cure.

In addition to staying home from school, HHS has some more guidelines for college students. The department recommends that students living in dormitories take a taxi or a car, avoiding public transportation to go home. If you can’t do that, it recommends that you have only one person bring you whatever you need, whether it is food, notes or medication. If all else fails, wear a surgical mask, which is definitely not the most flattering accessory.

Some of these guidelines may sound over the top, but while the flu may not have a huge impact on you, you could infect someone who may end up in the hospital as a result. In particular, people with asthma, diabetes and heart disease are already immunocompromised and at risk of contracting a severe form of the flu. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of flu-associated deaths per year, in the past 30 years, has ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths. If you don’t want to go through all the hassle, then get the flu vaccine shot. You owe it to yourself and everyone you come in contact with to do so.

Since 2010, the CDC has recommended that all individuals six months and older get the vaccine. The flu vaccine is carefully crafted each year to include the strands of influenza most likely to infect people in the upcoming season. This year, the flu A (H3N2) strand was anticipated to cause the majority of flu cases. A lot of time, effort and money is put into keeping the flu from causing major health problems within the population, so head over to the UH Health Center to get your $25 flu vaccine today.

If you can’t get the flu vaccine, take some simple physical precautions. According to the New York University Langone Medical Center, the water droplets projected when people sneeze, cough or even talk can travel as far as ten feet, so try to move out of the line of fire of the guy sneezing his head off two rows behind you. In general, employ common sense. Wash your hands and don’t share food and drinks with others. By being vigilant in protecting yourself against the flu, not only are you helping yourself, you’re helping those around you.

Trisha Thacker is a biology junior and may be reached at [email protected].

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