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Take care to prevent flu

The holiday season has wrapped up only to be followed with a less festive season plagued with illness and tissue boxes -- influenza season.

Influenza cases continue to rise in numbers. But according to Employee Health and Wellness at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing, with proper care, it is possible to avoid catching this bug.

One way to avoid catching influenza, an upper respiratory illness, is to get vaccinated. Since the flu season started earlier this year and the end of the flu season cannot be predicted, Dr. Thomas Witt highly recommends this option.

Public health nurse Vicki Iocco, who coordinates the Goodhue County Health and Human Services Disease Prevention & Control Program, said the vaccine is good for about a year. Students and teachers who received vaccination in August do not need a second shot.

Not only does the shot or FluMist help prevent catching this illness that Witt describes as "not your typical stuffy nose and cough," but if a vaccinated patient catches the bug, the shot can reduce the illness' severity.

Influenza symptoms can, but do not always, include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea or vomiting.

Another way to avoid getting influenza is to take precaution around those who are sick, as influenza typically spreads through coughing and sneezing.

According to Witt, even though it is winter when people are typically indoors and in close proximity to others, they can prevent infection through general hygiene habits such as washing hands often with soap and water, and avoiding contact with eyes, mouth and nose if hands have not been washed recently.

The CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls, Lake City and Red Wing believes that most influenza patients can recover at home with rest and hydration, but in some instances it could be necessary to seek professional medical attention.

Those who are particularly at risk for complications of the illness are the elderly, children under age 5 and people with chronic health conditions. These "are the people we worry about," Witt said.

If an appointment is made to check the progress of an ill person's health, then the question of "do they need anything more?" can be answered, Witt said.

Mayo Health Systems professionals said that those who are starting to experience the symptoms should not come to work or attend school until 24 hours after their fever is gone and they are feeling better. When staying at home, rest and drink fluids.

"And again, it is not too late to get the flu shot," Witt said.

The Cannon Falls, Lake City and Plainview locations of Mayo Clinic Health System are accepting walk-in appointments, while Alma, Ellsworth, Red Wing, Wabasha and Zumbrota locations are available for appointments.

When to call a doctor

Seek immediate attention if a child has any of these emergency warning signs:

• 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

• If you are concerned that something does not seem right with your child

Emergency warning signs in adults include:

• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

• Sudden dizziness

• Confusion

• Severe or persistent vomiting