It must be November.
Take one look at the bleary-eyed, sniffling, sneezing person sitting at the cubicle next to you, and you’ll know. They are as sure a sign that November has arrived as discarded cough drop wrappers.
“November is the beginning of cold and flu season,” said Joyce Davis, health educator with the Lorain County General Health District.
She didn’t need to tell this to Dr. Mussaret Zuberi of EMH Regional Medical Center in Elyria, though.
Patients complaining of flu-like symptoms already have begun pouring into his office.
“I’ve seen a lot of people and I expect to see a lot more,” he said. Flu season stretches from now though March, according to Zuberi, and reaches its peak in February.
So, now that you know it’s flu season, what can you do?
“The best way to prevent the flu,” Davis said, “is to get a flu vaccine 6 to 8 weeks before flu season starts.”
“But,” Davis said, “it’s never too late.”
Lorain County will be holding several flu shot clinics over the next few weeks. To find one near you visit www.loraincountyhealth.com or call the flu hot line at (440) 329-7926.
In the meantime, Davis offered a few things you can do to try to keep the flu at bay: wash your hands often (including after every time you sneeze), avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, get regular exercise, eat fruit and stay hydrated.
For many of us, though, this advice could be coming a few sneezes too late.
Judging by the hordes of people at EMH already, it’s clear to Zuberi that many people have skipped the prevention and gone straight for the sickness.
“I’ve seen so many people with these symptoms. It’s hard to know, though, if someone just has a cold or has the flu – the cold is a symptom of the flu,” Zuberi said. “The best you can do is to treat the symptoms and maintain good hygiene.”
No get-well-quick scheme here.
According to Davis, just get a lot of rest, stay at home and take medicine – like aspirin and Tylenol – to treat the symptoms.
For young children though, there a few things to keep in mind.
“Children should not take aspirin,” Davis warned. To avoid getting Reyes syndrome, a potentially fatal disease that affects the organs, children under the age of 5 should avoid it.
Decongestants can pose a problem, too, according to Zuberi. Decongestants contained in such cold medicines as Tylenol Cold don’t work in the undeveloped systems of infants and they may even cause harm, according to Zuberi.
For the most part, though, the flu can just be waited out, according to Zuberi. But if the symptoms become unbearable or last more than two weeks, you should seek medical attention.
But, with good prevention and good hygiene you should be able to stave off the flu – until next year, at least.