Posted on October 11, 2017
It’s Flu Season: Quick Facts and Tips to Pass to Your Patients
We know you’re well aware that flu season has begun and that this means you’ll need to be providing patients with quick facts about the flu, as well as the best tips for prevention. We’ve got you covered with important flu information you can pass along to your patients below.
The Flu Vaccine
Getting the flu vaccine every year is the best protection against the flu (in addition to washing hands regularly, as discussed below.) Flu activity typically peaks between December and March, but it can begin in early fall and last as late as May. Since the flu vaccine is effective as long as flu viruses are circulating, encourage your patients to get vaccinated even if it is later in the season.
Inform patients about the importance of getting the flu shot every year. Since
flu viruses are constantly changing, the vaccine is updated every year based on which influenza viruses are making people sick at that time. Patients need to understand that last year’s flu shot won’t necessarily protect them against this year’s flu virus strains.
Have patients who aren’t convinced they need to get the flu vaccine? Let them know that, every year, the CDC conducts studies to determine how well the flu vaccine protects against flu illness. While vaccine effectiveness can vary, recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60%. This is among the overall population during seasons when the flu vaccine is well-matched to the circulating flu viruses.
Another important piece of information to pass along to patients is that they should get the shot and not the nasal spray since the CDC no longer recommends the FluMist due to concerns about its effectiveness.
Other Top Preventative Tips
Other than talking to patients about the flu vaccine, there are other tips you can recommend that will help limit their chances of getting the flu. You’ll find that some people aren’t aware of these tips and need to be taught, while others know but need to be reminded.
Discuss these simple flu prevention tips with your patients so the information is fresh in their minds, enabling them to take the steps needed to help them avoid the flu.
- Wash Hands Frequently
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, one of the best ways people can protect themselves from flu germs is to wash their hands frequently. While this is obvious to you, it does slip people’s minds.
You’ll want to stress the importance of developing a habit of washing hands regularly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Yes, you can even tell them the old trick of singing “happy birthday” twice or saying the alphabet twice while washing their hands to ensure they’ve washed long enough!
Suggest that they carry an alcohol based hand rub with them in the event soap is not available.
- Avoid Close Contact with Others
Advise patients not to get too close to someone who has the flu and to also avoid close contact with others when they are sick.
- Stay Home When Sick
Although people have a lot on their plates today, including mounting job responsibilities, it’s important to encourage your patients to take the day off work and stay home when they are sick. Rest is critical to fighting illness and staying home will help prevent spreading germs at work.
Tell them that the CDC recommends that people stay home for 24 hours after being fever-free without the use of fever reducing medicines.
- Cover Mouth and Nose When Coughing and Sneezing
You might be surprised by the amount of people (adults included) who don’t cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing. Remind your patients that, whenever they cough or sneeze, they need to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue (or sleeve) to prevent spreading germs.
- Avoid Touching Nose, Eyes and Mouth
One of the most common ways germs are spread is when a person touches a contaminated surface and then touches their face. Patients need to be aware not to touch their nose, eyes and mouth, especially since many people don’t realize when they are doing this.
- Clean and Disinfect
Finally, stress the importance of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that are touched frequently, both at work and at home. This practice will help prevent the spread of germs, keeping people healthy.
By educating (and re-educating) your patients about the flu every year, you’ll help lessen the total number of flu cases and enable people to be proactive about their health.