Nursing students offer 4 ways to prevent the flu

October 29 2007

They say prevention is the best medicine, and this is especially true when it comes to the flu, according to student nurses in the Community Health Nursing program at Indiana State University.

Here are four ways to practice prevention this flu season, provided by Nina Metanet, ISU Community Health Nursing student, and Veda Gregory, ISU associate professor of nursing.

- Practice Good Hand Washing

Despite the proven health benefits of hand washing, many people don't practice this habit as often as they should. The most common way colds and the flu are spread is by people rubbing their nose and eyes with their hands, which then contaminates them with the virus. It is important to wash your hands often and regularly. Cleaning your hands gets rid of germs you pick up from yourself or others during the course of a day.

Health experts recommend the use of soap and water often, especially after coughing or sneezing. They also suggest carrying alcohol-based hand cleaners in your car, backpack or purse when soap and water are not available.

In addition to washing hands frequently, they also need to be washed thoroughly. Use soap and warm water and rub hands for 15 to 20 seconds. Scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails. It helps kill any germs on your hands and prevents them from coming back as easily. So always remember to wash them before, during and after you prepare food. Wash them before you eat, whenever you use the bathroom or when your hands are dirty. It is a good idea to do it more regularly when someone in your home is sick.

- Practice Cough Etiquette

The flu virus is passed from one person to another through fluids from mouth and nose secretions. When we cough and sneeze, these droplets go into the air. While it is good manners to cover the mouth when we are coughing, it is also a great way to prevent the spread of germs. To help stop the spread of germs, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands. Put your used tissue in the wastebasket. Clean and wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.

- Practice Avoiding Crowds

Keep your children and yourself away from anyone who is sick. In a large crowd, you don’t know who is sick and who isn’t. Some people may be contagious even without showing symptoms. One sure flu prevention tip is to avoid close contact with people who are sick. People who are at high risk -- young children and older adults -- should stay away from public places and crowds from late October to mid-March.

Turnabout is fair play, so you also should stay away from others when you or your kids are sick. When not feeling well, don’t go to work and don’t send children to school.

- Practice Good Nutrition

To prevent the flu, stick with a healthy lifestyle. Keeping yourself healthy, through good nutrition and daily activity, helps to keep your immune system in top form, so it is generally the best defense against the flu. Consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats, and eliminating highly processed and junk foods, can actually help ward off illness.

Other ways to promote a healthy immune system are by getting plenty of sleep, managing stress and drinking plenty of non-caffeinated fluids.

Don’t become a statistic!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, every year in the United States, on average, between 5 percent and 20 percent of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications; and about 36,000 people die from flu.

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PHOTO: DOWNLOAD A HIGH-RESOLUTION PHOTO HERE: Flu Clinic

CUTLINE: Jennifer Stepro, an Indiana State University senior nursing student from Farmersburg, administers a flu shot to Emily Tessman, a sophomore political science major from Paris, Ill., during a flu shot clinic for ISU students, faculty, staff on Oct. 29, at ISU's Hulman Memorial Student Union. The flu shots were administered by ISU community health nursing students. (Tony Campbell/ISU)

CONTACT: Veda Gregory, associate professor of nursing, Indiana State University, (812) 237-2328 or vgregory@isugw.indstate.edu

WRITER: Katie Spanuello, media relations assistant director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3790 or kspanuello@isugw.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Nursing students offer 4 ways to prevent the flu and administer shots during a flu shot clinic for ISU students, faculty, staff on Oct. 29, at ISU's Hulman Memorial Student Union.

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