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Tips for the Flu Season

Oct 6, 2012

Tips for the Flu Season

It’s that time of year!

We are officially in the “flu season.” 

Don’t be casual about the risk this year. Even if you don’t mind being sick, you could be the carrier that infects someone else who is at greater risk of complications. Do your part to be a dead end for the chain of contagions.

Usually the flu is just an inconvenient annoyance. But this year it is especially important to be diligent. At the least, being sick could mean lost income from missed work. Not good in this economy. At the worst, it could put someone at risk of death. You don’t need to panic, but please don’t be cavalier.

Here are my top ten suggestions to help therapists and their clients to stay healthy, including a surprise at #1:

10. Should you come in for an appointment is you are feeling sick? If you answer “Yes” to ANY of the following questions, you should stay home:
Do you have a fever of 100 degrees or more?
Do you “expel” more than once every 20 minutes? (“Expelling” means coughing, sneezing, wheezing, dripping, sniffling, etc. ) Do you have to breathe with your mouth open because of congestion?

9. That being said, you don’t need to be afraid of people with the flu. If you are around someone who is sick, the best thing you can do for them, and for yourself, is to be friendly. A smile can go a long way to boost the immune system. A fist-bump is safer than a handshake. In fact, a HUG is safer than a handshake.

8. Wash your hands. Frequently! This the THE most important thing you can do to stay well. You don’t need to use antibacterial soap. Any soap will do. Lather for 20 to 25 seconds, scrub under the nails, then rinse. But the water and soap is only half the story. The other half is DRYING your hands thoroughly. A quick wipe is not good enough. A good towel is essential, especially if you don’t have soap handy. Moisturize after washing to keep the skin soft. I prefer Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream. Until you have washed you hands, do not touch your eyes, mouth, nose, or ears.

7. Keep bottles of alcohol hand sanitizer handy (like Purell). I have a bottle in my massage room and in the waiting room. My favorite brand is EO. But don’t use too much. You don’t want your hands to get dried out from the alcohol. It should only be used as a back up. Rub it all over your hand up to the wrists, between each finger, under the nails. Rub until dry.

6. Keep the vulnerable areas clean: Ears, nose, eyes, and mouth.

Where is the most vulnerable site for the virus to enter your body? It is the eyes. DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES. Your eyes do not have the same natural defenses that other membranes do. If your eye has an itch, use a tissue or your shirt to gently scratch the itchy spot.

5. At the end of each day, perhaps after each visitor to your home or office, wipe hard surfaces that may have been touched. This includes door knobs, door frames, counters, desktops, wood arms on armchairs, light switches, etc.

4. Sleep. Rest. Change bed sheets regularly. Change the pillow case frequently.

3. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, use the inside of your elbow.

2. Avoid sharing objects like pens, cups, utensils, etc. If you must, clean or wipe the item before use it. Are you self-employed? This is the perfect time of year to have pens with your logo and phone number on them. After a client uses the pen, they can take it with them! Keep tissues handy to grab objects like door knobs, or use your shirt sleeve.

…and the number hint for keeping well? As I mentioned above, hand washing is THE most important thing you can do to avoid spreading germs. And mostly we do a good job of this. But there is one precaution that is completely overlooked by most people:

1. Keep moist with a humidifier. Yes, drinking water is important. But we gain and lose most of our moisture through respiration. I prefer to use a “hot steam” humidifier over one that uses a fan to evaporate the water. You want to keep the membranes moist. Any dry spots can crack and provide an entry site for viruses. If your kleenex is a little bloody after blowing your nose, you are at greater risk of infection. Moisture will also help the body to maintain its natural defense: watery phlegm. Sticky phlegm, not so good. No phlegm, worse. Watery phlegm, best. Indoor humidity should be around 40 to 50 percent. It is important to keep the humidifier clean, free from mold and bacteria.

Whew! That is a long list. The extra care is worth it.

Disclaimer: This is an original work written on 10/15/09 by Lynn K. Patricia. I am not a doctor, nor a nurse. I am a massage therapist. These suggestions are not informed by scientific expertise. Feel free to share this list with others. Please include my name as the source.

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