Health Hint: Dealing with a severe flu season

Taking care of your health is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Baylor College of Medicine experts have plenty of tips to help you stay healthy. This month’s Health Hint from Dr. Jim Kelaher, director of the Occupational Health Program, focuses on how to protect yourself during the severe 2017-2018 flu season.

Get vaccinated now!

As a Baylor employee, you should have already gotten the flu shot and submitted verification of it. However, if you missed the deadline set by Baylor policy or if members of your family have not been vaccinated, doctors recommend getting the flu shot immediately. It takes two weeks to provide coverage, which could still be enough time to protect you this season. The flu vaccine is not guaranteed to prevent illness, but even if you do get the flu, the vaccination may lower the severity of your illness. You can get the flu shot from your regular physician or local pharmacy.

Use good hygiene

The flu is spread through the air when someone coughs or sneezes and through touching contaminated items such as doorknobs and telephones, so it is imperative to use proper flu hygiene.

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Sing the entire ABC song in your head while washing your hands.
  • Use disinfecting wipes on surfaces such as grocery carts, gym equipment, doorknobs, etc.
  • Sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow – the so-called “vampire cough.”
  • Limit contact with others if you have been diagnosed or suspect you have the flu.

Watch this video for more tips.

Clinical-employee precautions

Clinical employees who claimed exemptions as outlined in the Baylor policy and did not receive the flu vaccine must take alternate steps to safeguard the health of Baylor patients and their families. Those with routine and direct exposure to patients must wear masks during the provision of medical services and at all times during scheduled shifts for the duration of flu season.

Exempt persons who do not have routine and direct exposure to patients may also need to take certain precautions, including frequent hand-washing or use of hand sanitizer and sanitizing equipment and work surfaces.

To obtain masks or gloves, contact the Occupational Health program at 713-798-7880.

Flu vs. the common cold and when to seek treatment
  • Symptoms of flu include high fever above 100 degrees, chills, sweating, headache and body aches, malaise, congestion, coughing and runny nose, and possibly nausea.
  • Elderly people, the very young and those with underlying health conditions or who are immunocompromised should see a doctor immediately if they suspect flu so that they can get on antiviral medication to reduce severity.
  • Others should use their best judgement on whether to see a doctor or care for the flu at home. Home treatment includes getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated and taking a fever reducer.
  • Cold symptoms can be similar to flu but the key difference is any fever associated with a cold is lower-grade, 100 degrees or below. Colds run a typical course, generally starting with a sore throat, progressing to congestion for a few days, and then a cough. Colds usually do not lead to serious health issues and can be treated at home.