|Protect Yourself from the Flu and Other Viruses
January 22, 2013,
Volume 59, No. 18
Flu cases are on the rise and the Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu shot. But vaccines are in short supply due to an increased demand in recent weeks.
If you didn’t have a chance to take advantage of Penn’s on-campus flu shot program held annually in November, you may want to check with your physician’s office to discuss options for getting vaccinated. Keep in mind that you can’t get the flu from a flu shot. This is a myth, so don’t pass up the opportunity when it’s available. Once you get a flu shot, you’ll need a couple of weeks for the immunity to kick in.
In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself from the flu, or care for yourself if you do catch the flu.
Proactive Steps to Stay Well
If you’re waiting for a shot or for the immunity to kick in, there are some proactive things you can do. Keep yourself in the best of shape by eating right and sleeping well. But most importantly, wash your hands well and often. Use water and soap and count to 20 (or sing Happy Birthday to yourself) to get a good lather going on both sides of your hands and between your fingers. Rinse well and use a clean towel to dry. Or you can use alcohol-based sanitizers. This is the best approach to avoiding picking up the flu and virus bugs that are especially prevalent in the environment at this time of the year.
What to Do If You Get Sick
In Philadelphia, Influenza (flu) and Norovirus (stomach flu/gastroenteritis) season often occur simultaneously. The viruses are different, but some symptoms are similar. Call your healthcare provider if you have the following symptoms. He or she will help you decide if you need to be seen.
• Sore throat
• Bodily aches
• Stomach cramps
• Low-grade fever
For healthy people, the flu usually resolves on its own in several days and requires only supportive care. Follow this helpful advice from Penn’s Student Health Service:
1. Take care of your fever:
- Use a thermometer to take your temperature.
- For a fever of 100.4 F (38 Celsius) or greater, you can take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) OR ibuprofen (Advil) according to the label instructions. Talk to your health provider or pharmacist about which medications are safe for you.
- Take fever-reducing medications with food to prevent an upset stomach.
2. Prevent dehydration: Drink plenty of clear liquids (water, ginger ale, Gatorade and other sports drinks, etc.)
3. Take care of yourself: Get plenty of rest!
4. Prevent the spread of flu:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow, or use a tissue.
- Try to avoid close contact with others.
- Be thoughtful about when and how you should be around others. If you are infectious—stay home, especially if you have a fever or other serious symptoms of these diseases.
5. Call your healthcare provider if you:
- Have trouble breathing
- Develop chest pain
- Suffer a relapse (begin to feel much worse after having felt better)
- Develop a severe headache and a noticeable rash with or without neck pain/stiffness
- Have onset of confusion or lethargy
- Develop sudden dizziness related to position change or being too weak to walk
- Have severe or persistent vomiting
The Centers for Disease Control has more information about the flu and how to stay well and get well at www.cdc.gov/features/fluactivity/
What if a family member is sick?
You can use three of your sick days to take care of a sick family member. You can use the Penn backup care program for up to 10 days of child (under 18) or adult care (18+) in your home. To check out the details of Penn’s backup care program, see https://www.hr.upenn.edu/myhr/worklife/family/backupcare
—Division of Human Resources