The Southern Missouri Region of the American Red Cross urges people who have not had the flu vaccine to get the vaccination soon as a result of the widespread flu activity across the nation.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that this is the worst outbreak of flu the United States has had in several years. Flu activity has been reported in 41 states.
The American Red Cross has released the following tips to help prevent the flu in southern Missouri:
* Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue away after use, or if no tissue is available, cough into the elbow, not in hands.
* Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. Use soap and water when possible, but if none are available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
* Avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth, and avoid contact with people who are sick. Individuals who are sick should stay away from others. The CDC also recommends getting a yearly flu vaccination for everyone six months of age and older.
Common symptoms of influenza include high fever, severe body aches, headaches, being extremely tired, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and vomiting and/or diarrhea, which is most common in children.
The best, and safest, way to care for a person who has influenza is to designate one person as the caregiver, keeping everyone else in the household away to avoid spreading the sickness. Make sure the sick person stays at home and rests until 24 hours after the fever has broken.
If possible, designate a sick room for the person. If there are more than one sick individuals, they may share the sick room if needed.
In addition, if there is more than one bathroom, have one of them designated for the sick person to use. Each sick person should have their own drinking glass, washcloth and towel.
Item to be kept near the sick person or in the sick room include: tissues, a plastic bag-lined trash can, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, a cooler or pitcher with ice and drinks, a thermometer and straws or a squeeze bottle to help the person drink.
A humidifier also provides extra moisture in the air, helping the person breathe easier. If the person must leave the sick room he or she should wear a face mask, if available, at all times. A face mask should also be worn if the person is around other people.
Administer plenty of fluids, water and other clear liquids, to the sick person at the first sign of the flu and throughout the sickness to keep the person from getting dehydrated. Treat the cough and fever with medicines available at the store, but never treat children with medicines containing aspirin, especially with the flu.
If a person gets extremely sick, is pregnant or has a medical condition, such as asthma, they are at a higher risk of flu complications and a doctor should be contacted. The patient might need to be examined and might need antiviral medications to treat the influenza.
Members of a household should avoid sharing one another's items, such as pens, paper, blankets, clothes, food or eating utensils unless they have been sanitized between uses.
Disinfect all commonly touched household items such as doorknobs, switches, telephones, computers, toys and other items that can spread the virus. Wash everyone's dishes in the dishwasher or by hand with very hot water and soap. Wash everyone's clothes in a standard washing machine with detergent and very hot water.
Tumble dry clothes on the hot dryer setting, and wash hands after handling dirty laundry. Wear disposable gloves when in contact with or cleaning up body fluids.
Seek medical care if the person develops fast breathing, troubled breathing or a bluish tinted skin color, confusion, dizziness, insufficient fluid consumption, unable to eat or severe or persistent vomiting. For adults, seek medical care if the person develops pain in the chest or abdomen.
In addition, seek medical attention if the person is not waking up, if a child is so irritable they do not want to be held or interacted with, if flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with a fever or worse cough, if a child develops a fever with a rash or if there are no tears when a child is crying or there are significantly fewer wet diapers.
To find a location administering flu shots visit www.flu.gov.
More information about how to protect people during flu season is available at www.redcross.org.