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Limit exposure to stay free of flu

Dr. Tim O'Neill checks Jaimee Olsen, administrative assistant, for wheezing, fluid, and other noises in her lungs, which would indicate upper-airway illness. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
December 15, 2010 - When it comes to preventing flu this winter, listen to your mom, said Dr. Tim O'Neill, Clarkston Medical Group.

"Eat well, stay active and healthy, drink enough water, get enough rest – take care of yourself," O'Neill said. "Avoid sick people, seriously."

Spread by virus, regular hand washing and hand sanitizers also help, he said.

"They do work – they've been shown to reduce infection," he said.

He also recommends a flu shot. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine protects against three flu viruses: H3N2, influenza B, and H1N1 (swine flu).

"Even if it's not perfect, it will provide some protection," he said.

The practice administered 2,000 shots already, with more than 3,000 expected throughout the season.

Other tips:

"If you shovel snow, make sure you're in good shape and use good form," he said. "If you're not fit, have someone else do it."

Also, limit exposure to freezing temperatures, and dress properly. Even if stuck indoors, watch for overexertion.

"A grandmother tried to play Wii video games with the grandkids and threw her back out," he said.

When indoors, don't crank up the heat.

"My father has a saying: turn the furnace down and humidity up," he said. "Keep up the humidity, use nasal sprays if it's dry. Otherwise, you can get clogged up and infection builds up."

Health tips

• Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• If sick with flu symptoms, stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Fever should be gone without use of fever-reducing medicine.

• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

• Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as vaccine is available this fall. While flu is unpredictable, it's likely that 2009 H1N1 viruses and regular seasonal viruses will cause illness in the U.S. this flu season.

– Centers for Disease Control

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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