flu shot

A student receives a flu shot, Dec. 4, 2018.

Have you noticed that it’s now a good 30 degrees in the morning when you’re walking to your 9:05? Are you like me, and are too stubborn to pull out your parka unless the air is cold enough to freeze the puddles on the sidewalk? Admittedly, that is a very good way to get sick. 

Flu season is fast approaching, and you may also notice your peers developing concerning coughs and sinus issues. Feel your own nose. A little runny? You and those around you probably just have the common cold, but even that can quickly develop into the flu virus. Here are a few ways to detect, prevent and treat the flu. 

The basics

First, make sure you wear a coat or some form of outerwear whenever leaving the house, because as far as any of us should be concerned, it is now winter in Blacksburg. The next step in this process is the most obvious if you haven't completed it already: get a flu shot. It is truly so easy, and with insurance, it’s free (without insurance, Hokie Wellness offers shots for $25). Just head to your pharmacy or sign up for a flu shot clinic offered by Hokie Wellness on Nov. 12 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Squires Old Dominion Ballroom. The flu being listed as a “very common” virus should be reason enough to get a vaccine.

Now for some bad news — once you get a flu shot, you’re not exactly in the clear. Yes, it sounds redundant, but the point of the shot isn’t so much to prevent the flu as it is to weaken the virus if it does make its way into your system. Basically it’s the difference between being sick for two weeks versus two days. 

What else you can do to prevent the flu? 

The flu virus is incredibly contagious and can live on a surface like a doorknob for a number of hours after being passed from someone. Washing your hands regularly and keeping hand sanitizer on you at all times is a good place to start. Also, it may seem obvious, but if your friends seem to be getting sick, don’t share anything with them. Even if you’re sure your hands are clean, please just keep them away from your mouth, nose and eyes. It’s a good way to spread germs during flu season and any other time. It’s the same lesson you’ve been taught since preschool; cover your mouth when you cough. That way you’ll avoid the flu, as well as a bunch of dirty looks from your peers. 

How to know if you have it? 

A lot of people confuse the flu with the common cold, but there are a few telling differences between the two. With the flu, a fever is common, as are headaches, body aches, exhaustion and severe coughing. With the cold, the symptoms are typically limited to congestion, sneezing, sore throat and mild coughing. In short, if you start to feel feverish and more than a little foggy, go see a doctor. 

What to do if you get it

First thing’s first: don’t panic. Yes, the next few days, and possibly weeks, are going to be a drag, but it is not as untreatable as you might think. The next thing you’re going to want to do is make an appointment with your doctor if you haven't already, and chances are you’ll get a prescription for antivirals that fight the virus without mercy. As far as at-home care goes, resting and drinking as much water as possible is key. Avoiding alcohol is equally important to ensure that the antivirals are not weakened. Picture yourself on the couch with a giant bottle of water watching TV for a few days. It sounds kind of nice, right? But obviously try your best to avoid getting sick.

With projections for a rough flu season across the country, the virus shouldn’t be taken lightly. Being sick during the last few weeks of the semester isn’t something anyone wants. Getting a flu shot, staying sanitary and recognizing symptoms are the easiest ways to stay healthy enough to finish the semester strong. If nothing else, cover your cough.

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