Heading home for the holidays? Avoid bringing unwanted gifts!

Campus staff and faculty still have time to get a flu shot before they head over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house for the holidays. When they do, they won’t be bringing any unwanted gifts when they come – such as the flu!

With the season of fever, headaches, stuffy noses and sore throats upon us, gathering together for the holidays brings an increased risk of transmitting contagious viruses. University community members can be the biggest culprits simply because of the large number of people with whom they come into contact as part of their daily routine.

To ensure a healthier community, OSU Student Health Services is extending its service to provide flu shots to all faculty, staff, and students.

“It’s not too late to get yours before Christmas,” said Colleen Schlonga, marketing coordinator for Student Health Services in Plageman Hall.

Cost to students is $15 and can be charged to student accounts. Faculty and staff pay $25 in cash or check. Walk ups are welcome. Information is available at 737-9355.

Student Health Services targets students because younger people often are contagious long before they themselves come down with any symptoms of the flu, said Dr. Phillip Histand, director of the service.

And because of where students live, mixing with others from throughout the state, country, and world, students also are exposed to many viruses Grandma just doesn’t run into at her house, Histand said.

“Because the elderly and chronically ill are the most susceptible to the flu, you don’t want to be the one who gives them unwanted gifts,” the director said.

So, what else to do when you’re really aching for Mom’s turkey dressing, Aunt Bea’s pumpkin pie, and football on the tube with Cousin Mike?

 Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze

 Throw tissues in the trash after using them

 Wash hands with soap and water often

 Try to avoid contact with people who are sick

 Frequently wash down doorknobs and handles

 If you get the flu, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others

Handwashing is the main preventative action against noroviruses, another seasonal group of viruses that hit the gastrointestinal system fast and hard and are very contagious.

Infection comes from eating foods, touching surfaces, or having direct contact with someone with the illness. Symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, and cramping, and some people have low-grade fevers, chills, headaches, and muscle aches.

Infected individuals remain contagious for up to two weeks after recovery, so it is important for people to use good handwashing and other hygienic practices long after they feel better.

The biggest danger from noroviruses is dehydration, especially for young children, the elderly, and those with other illnesses. Oral rehydration products (powder mixed with water) at pharmacies might be more than most people need, Histand said. But juices and water can reduce chances of becoming dehydrated. Sports drinks may be used but only if they are mixed half-and-half with water.

A home-made mix of one quart of water, half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of baking soda, and four tablespoons of sugar will replenish most lost minerals, Histand said. A banana, if the ill person can handle it, provides necessary potassium, he said.

“Know how to protect yourself,” Schlonga said. “And remember, the flu season doesn’t peak until February.”

~ by Ed Curtin

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