Flu season still upon us

On top of having a ton of assignments, getting sick is usually the last thing a student wants to deal with.

Michelle Castillo, a senior at Eastern New Mexico University said that she has already been sick this year.

“I have had a few colds this year, but the only thing I really took was Emergen-C,” said Castillo.

As the winter season comes to a close, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Nicole Oswalt of Las Cruces said flu season is definitely still present.

“It’s highly recommended that people get their flu shots if they haven’t already,” she said. “Peak times will be different in different areas, even in different states, so we’re not out of the woods yet.”

“We can’t avoid getting sick completely; that’s just part of life, unfortunately, but we can control how quickly we get better and how severely our symptoms hit to an extent,” Oswalt said. “Get your flu shot. I know many are wary of the flu vaccine, and the media focuses on how ineffective it is each year, which unfortunately is true as it’s our least effective vaccine since it’s changed yearly based on the predictions from the strains seen the year before.

“However, even a 40 to 50 percent chance of protection against influenza is much better than 0 percent,” she added. “Most years the efficacy of the vaccine is in the high 60 to 70 percent, so this is a much greater chance of protection than people think.”

Oswalt said people should also wash their hands.

“That’s one of the most important things people can do to avoid getting sick or spreading their illness if they do get sick,” said Oswalt.

Some other words of advice Oswalt gave was to eat healthy because if your diet is healthy, your immune system is healthy, which will help make your body stronger to better fight illness.

In regard to how to get better more quickly, Oswalt said fluids are vital to someone’s recovery.

“We get dehydrated so much quicker when we’re ill, and in the case of the stomach flu, even more so,” she said. “If your body is fighting something, and you feel very tired, your body is telling you that you need to sleep, and sleep is one of the best medicines your body can get.”

Oswalt said for nasty colds, getting the mucus out of your system is also key to recovery.

“That means blowing your nose, using saline rinses in the nose or a Neti Pot to irrigate the sinus tract and flush all of the mucus and bacteria or viruses out,” she said. “If you’re not allergic to them or have any conditions that would prevent you from taking them, just plain (not multi-symptom) decongestants are your friend.”

Oswalt said cough suppressants are dangerous.

“When you suppress a cough, you suppress the body’s ability to protect itself and, in some cases, also suppress breathing,” she said.

For the stomach flu, a person’s stomach can’t handle large amounts of food or liquid, so people should drink little sips of water or Gatorade often. She said taking probiotics during a stomach illness is very helpful and avoiding all dairy or fruit products.

“A good rule of thumb for when you should seek medical attention is if you’ve had the cold symptoms for 10 days or longer, and they’re not getting better or are getting worse. If you have a fever that is constant and continuous for three days or more, you should be seen,” she said.

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