No flu crisis yet for many local schools
That's how it starts, anyways. Add a fever or feeling feverish and having chills (though some may never have a fever), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue — it's the perfect recipe for the seasonal flu, according the the Center for Disease Control.
ProHealth Care has seen flu cases, yes, but Waukesha County is not as hard hit as Milwaukee County. ProHealth internal medical physician Eric Conradson, who practices in Oconomowoc, said Waukesha is lucky, but it's definitely coming.
"Lannon, Maple Avenue, Woodside and Marcy elementary schools – they have not noticed an increase of absences. A couple of students have stomach flu, but it has not been anything out of the ordinary for this time of the year," public information coordinator Denise Dorn Lindberg said.
"If there is a flu outbreak in Waukesha County, we are not seeing it – yet. Fingers crossed," Lindberg added.
That means now is a good time to get vaccinated. In fact, everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu vaccination.
"There's always an opportunity to get vaccinated," Conradson said.
This season's flu vaccine is designed to protect against three to four influenza virus strains, depending on which vaccine you get. All of the vaccine options this season include protection against pH1N1.
Vaccination is especially important for high-risk individuals (or those around them) who could suffer from serious flu-related complications, such as young children and people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Those high-risk individuals, too, should see their doctor right away if they get flu symptoms.
There are other steps families can take to avoid getting sick this winter.
"Cover your mouth!" Conradson explained.
The CDC says that most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.
"The majority of viruses are spread from hand-to-mouth," Conradson said, who recommends washing hands thoroughly before eating. He added that hands should touch nothing that you'll put into your mouth — use a napkin if you are eating finger foods, just in case.
Keep surfaces such as bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys for children clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.
Some school districts, such as the Pewaukee School District, take an extra step in sterilization. They use a Zero Trace machine that cleans surfaces and clears the air with active oxygen or ozone. It is supposed to use electricity and oxygen to completely clean and purify any space. Buildings and Grounds Director John Stangler works with the school nurses to bring the machine into specific classrooms, which are then cleaned at night.
If you or your child has the flu, first of all, stay home. It's important to rest and to keep the flu from spreading. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others a whole day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.
Aim to stay home at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.
"It's a good thing for folks to stay home. Separate themselves, if possible. Social distancing, we call it," Conradson said. He also recommends Tylenol for headaches or fever (ibuprofen can be used, too, but a small percentage of people experience some swelling in the brain, making their headaches worse), Mucinex products to loosen phlegm and plenty of fluids.
"This could go into pneumonia, and if you are dehydrated, your phlegm can become thicker," he explained, adding that other serious conditions such as bronchitis and ear or sinus infections could also result.
Go to the doctor if you aren't getting better or if you are a high-risk individual. Severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion and severe or persistent vomiting mean you need to see a doctor.
Your physician might be able to helpby prescribing antiviral medications if you get in early enough. But getting in right away is key.
"The antiviral is only effective when you take it during the first two days. It only works when you go in early, so you should go in promptly if you get sick," Conradson said.
Be mindful, too, and see your doctor if your child has fast breathing or trouble breathing, bluish skin color, not drinking enough fluids, not waking up or not interacting, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held, flulike symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough or get a fever with a rash.
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