Safety Tip of the Week: Flu Season Safety

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about flu season safety.

Road sign stating "Flu Season Ahead" against backdrop of dark gray storm clouds

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

*It is important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Flu Complications

Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu, some of which can be life-threatening.

Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from the flu. In addition, it can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu.

People at High Risk from Flu

Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to the flu
can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-
related complications if they get sick. According to the CDC this includes people 65
years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as
asthma, diabetes or heart disease), pregnant women and young children.

What are the emergency warning signs of flu sickness?

In children

  • 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
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

The CDC recommends getting the flu vaccine as soon after the vaccines become
available or by the end of October if possible. They still encourage getting a vaccine in
January or later since the flu season typically peaks in January or later and it takes
about 2 weeks for the antibodies to develop in the body to provide protection. Therefore,
getting the vaccine early helps with prevention.

Stop the spread of germs that make you and others sick by following some simple preventative actions:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

For more information about seasonal flu, visit the CDC website.