Getting done with the sickness

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Doctor gives advice for avoiding common illnesses

Right on schedule, the cold weather is keeping people indoors, and winter illnesses are beginning to run wild.

Dr. Lisa Roark, owner of Roark Family Health and Medical Spa in Cassville, said right now, she is seeing a lot of strep, influenza and gastroenteritis, or the stomach bug.

“We see so much of this in the winter time because we are all indoors and in such close proximity to one another,” she said. “It isn’t that there are more germs in the winter.”

Ways people can help to beat the bugs is by getting their annual flu shots.

“That isn’t a 100 percent deterrent, but it can definitely help,” Roark said. “Also, do not share food and drinks, and the most tried and true tip is to wash your hands — a lot.”

People should be cautious everywhere they go. For example, when grabbing cart at the grocery store, be sure to wipe the handle with a sanitized wipe and use hand sanitizer.

“Another important tip that is often ignored is to stay home if you are sick,” Roark said. “If you are sick or have a fever, you should stay home until you are 24 hours symptom free.

“Don’t go to work, and do not send your children to school.”

If a person has true influenza, they will have a fever of 103-104, severe body aches and some sort of cough, congestion or other respiratory issue.

“The craziest thing is it comes on all of a sudden,” Roark said. “You will feel completely fine, then all of a sudden, you are sick, sick, sick.”

With influenza, some patients can be treated with Tamiflu, which is not the same as the over the counter, TheraFlu.

“Tamiflu is a prescription anti-viral medication that is used to treat influenza,” Roark said. “It can shorten the duration of the illness and decrease the severity if it is caught soon enough.”

Tamiflu can be a call in as a prescription for some patients, so Roark reminds people to call their doctor if they are exposed to the flu or if they have symptoms.

“So far, we are seeing mostly children with the flu or strep,” she said. “However, it is very common for children to have multiple infections, as one infection can weaken their immune systems significantly and allow another to take hold.”

The most dangerous combination is when a person has a viral infection that goes to bacterial.

“If you get a bacterial infection like pneumonia after having a viral infection like the flu, that is when it can be fatal,” Roark said. “Pregnant moms with an infection need to be treated as it can affective baby, as well as young children and people with other medical problems.”

People often rush to get the flu shot in preparation for the sick season, but often forget the most simple deterrent of illness, washing their hands.

“Usually, the flu season peaks in February,” Roark said. “If you haven’t gotten the flu shot, you can get it now — it isn’t too late.”

Realistically, the colder it is outside, the longer people are stuck indoors with each other, that is why the flu can spread so quickly.

“The next month or so, when it is the coldest, will be the biggest spike in illnesses,” Roark said.

It is important to follow a child’s school district rules for not attending school when sick.

Dusty Reid, Cassville school district director of operations, said Cassville schools are doing several things to decrease the spread of the cold and flu.

“Recently, we had a school nurse make a video that we shared with parents and students that offered six tips to avoid getting sick,” he said. “It is a guide that parents can use to keep their children healthy and to help not spread germs.”

Year-round, the Cassville school district uses an everyday disinfectant spray on desks, lockers and other contact surfaces, as well as in a mopping solution.

“When there is an ‘outbreak,’ we also use a hospital grade disinfectant that comes in an aerosol can,” Reid said. “It is used on contact surfaces and sprayed in the air like you would do with Lysol.”

During time of “outbreaks,” that is done two to three times per week.

“If things get worse or there is a significant concern, we use a product called Triple Play, which is a fogger that acts like a bug bomb on germs,” Reid said. “The disinfectant amber is set off on a Friday night when the campus is empty because the building needs to be empty for several hours when it is used.”

Each classroom provides students with disinfectant wipes to wipe down their chairs and desks.

“This actually serves a double purpose, as it also teaches the children to be cautious and help prevent the spread of germs,” Reid said. “Finally, the most important habit to teach our students is to wash their hands frequently. It is the number one thing they can do to prevent the spread of germs and illnesses.”

Another benefit to the Cassville school district is having access to a Mercy Clinic right on campus.

“This is huge and allows students and staff to be seen quicker and help catch the illnesses earlier so they aren’t walking around the school infecting others,” Reid said.

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