Students often lose when battling colds and flu

Students often lose when battling colds and flu

With winter around the corner, Fairmont students are becoming more susceptible to common illnesses such as the flu or the cold. Classrooms are beginning to fill with sniffling or coughing students.

As the colder months approach, more and more students will come down with these illnesses, taking them out of the classroom and leaving them home sick.

Colds are the most commonly contracted illnesses during the winter months, with the average adult getting two to three colds per year, lasting about a week each. Someone with a cold likely will experience a sore throat, nasal congestion, coughing, and aches and pains.  The best way to beat a cold is to use mild pain relievers such as Tylenol or Advil and avoid unnecessary activity.

The second most common wintertime illness is the flu, with 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population getting the flu each year. For teenagers, the flu is seldomly a serious health problem, but for those with chronic health problems, the flu can result in serious complications like pneumonia.

Flu symptoms begin to develop three days after contracting the virus, and the most common symptoms include a fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and soreness and aching. While a cold and the flu share some similar symptoms, the flu symptoms tend to be more severe and last longer.  Bed rest, a mild pain reliever, and lots of fluids like water and juice are the best treatments when it comes to the flu.

Because colds and the flu are caused by viruses, antibiotics are not useful in fighting them.

However, the Centers for Disease Control website recommends the use of antiviral drugs to treat the flu. “[Antiviral drugs] are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter. [They] can make an illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications.”

Flu shots aid prevention

Many local businesses have taken the first step in preventing the flu by providing flu shots for the public. In Kettering, flu shots are available at the Urgent Care on Woodman Drive, the Kroger Pharmacy on Dorothy Lane and the CVS Pharmacy located in the Eichelberger Shopping Center on the corner of Shroyer and Stroop roads.

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine, since the flu virus changes each year, as the first step in flu prevention for everyone 6 months of age and older.

Two different types of flu vaccines are available: the traditional injection and the nasal FluMist. The first is the flu shot given with a needle containing an inactivated virus to help build up a person’s immunity to the flu virus.

“It’s a good idea for everyone to get the flu shot,” said Kathy Thomas, Fairmont’s nurse. “I know not everyone can get it, and a lot of people have different feelings about that, so it depends on your perspective. The flu shot doesn’t guarantee anything, but at least it may cut down on the spread and increases your chance of staying healthy.”

Senior Alex Fuller has had the flu shot multiple times in the past and has never had a problem with it. “I can’t remember a time I’ve ever gotten the flu after the shot. I also have a younger sister, so I would recommend her and any other children to get it, just to be sure.”

Not all Fairmont students feel the same way, though. Sophomore Blake Maynard has had the shot before, but he decided to refrain this year to see if it makes a difference. “I haven’t had the flu or any colds since I quit getting flu shots. It makes me wonder if they actually do any good.”

The second mode of prevention is a nasal influenza vaccine called FluMist, which contains weakened viruses and can cause runny nose, congestion and fatigue. FluMist, however, is only recommended for non-pregnant, healthy people ages 2 to 49.

“The decision to get the nasal mist depends on the person, because the nasal mist is a live virus, and not everyone is able to do the live virus,” said Thomas.

Junior Teresa Slonaker received FluMist this year and is confident in the decision so far. “My parents wanted me to get the mist, and even though I got a little sick afterwards, I’m glad I got it.”

Fairmont doesn’t offer flu shots for students, but Thomas said students interested in free clinics should check with her in the nurse’s office for information.

Other means of prevention

Often, preventing winter illnesses is at the back of student’s minds. “Other than the flu shot, I honestly don’t think about prevention until it’s too late,” said Fuller.

Thomas recommends that students be aware of ways to keep themselves from becoming infected with a cold or flu.

People should avoid sneezing into their hands at all costs. By coughing into hands, the germs cling to the skin and spread to other people faster, so it’s more beneficial to cough or sneeze into the inside of an elbow, or even better, a tissue.

Hand washing is important at all times of the day, especially after coughing, sneezing or touching of the face. “Hand washing is the No. 1 thing, especially at Fairmont because there are so many people and so many germs, so everyone needs to make sure they’re washing their hands fairly frequently,” said Thomas.

Keeping your body healthy is pivotal for preventing flu and cold viruses. Eating as healthy as possibly, drinking lots of fluids, and getting lots of rest will help your immune system’s ability to fight off the cold and flu viruses.

When the virus wins …

If students do end up contracting a cold or flu virus, Thomas advises them to stay home.

“If you’re vomiting, you should be home for 24 hours until it stops. If it’s a fever, wait 24 hours after the fever breaks without the help of Tylenol or Advil,” said Thomas. “When you know you’re really sick and too ill to pay attention during class, that might be a day home to take care of yourself.”

Junior Cassidy Fink comes down with illnesses multiple times a year, keeping her out of school fairly frequently. “I didn’t start getting really sick all the time until freshman year, and at first I fell really behind, but I’ve learned to keep up and deal a lot better.”

Fuller says he doesn’t get sick any more than the average person. “I get sick here and there as the seasons change, and I only stay home if it’s more serious than a cold. If I were to ever get the flu, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be making it to school.”

As for Slonaker, the reward of exam exemptions for perfect attendance keeps her at school, even when she isn’t feeling that well.

Thomas advises that if students just have a cold, they should be well enough to be in school. “With a cold, typically at the beginning you feel awful and achy, but the difference with the flu is that you’re not really initially congested, and you have the sudden onset of a fever,” said Thomas. “That’s when you really do need to be home.”