Fall has just begun, which means it’s almost flu season here at HBHS. Within the first few weeks of school, a cold went around that hit many students and staff. But what is going to happen during the flu season when one person comes to school sick and spreads the virus to others?
The flu, otherwise known as Influenza, can be easily mistaken for a common cold due to similarity of the illnesses. Some shared symptoms include coughing, sore throat and a stuffy nose, while Influenza also includes other symptoms such as fever, body aches, cold sweats, headache, exhaustion and vomiting.
“It wasn’t fun,” said Emma Elkin ‘21, who had the flu earlier this year. “I felt dizzy and lightheaded mostly, which made me very tired, and I had a runny nose.”
According to Harvard University Science in the News each year, over 200,000 people come down with the flu, and 36,000 of those people die from the illness. The flu is extremely contagious and is a major health concern for elders, young kids and anyone with a weak immune system, especially during the flu season which can start as early as October and usually ends around March.
According to The New York Times, the flu is most common during the winter due to the changing lifestyles of each person and because the sickness survives longer in the winter due to the dry climates. Because it is cold outside, people tend to lock up their windows and stay inside more, causing them to breathe the same air every day for months. This increases the risk of exposure through breathing the same air as someone who could be sick, especially here at school.
Additionally, the days are shorter in the winter, resulting in a lack of vitamin D from not being exposed to enough sun, making it harder for the body to fight the virus. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to prevent the changing lifestyle in the winter, but, according to The UW Health Organization, there are ways to prevent this sickness at home and at school.
There are several things that you can do to prevent catching Influenza. Make sure to wash your hands frequently, especially before and after you eat, blow your nose, cough, sneeze or after interacting with an ill person. You should also avoid big crowds where germs can easily be spread, and, most importantly, get your flu shot.
“It is very important to take care of your immune system by eating right, and [by getting] lots of rest,” said Wellness teacher Maria St.Pierre. “Don’t touch your eyes, mouth and nose. Stay home if you don’t feel good.”
At school, germs are mainly spread by sneezing and touching. Try not to touch the railing while walking up the stairs and, if you do, make sure to wash your hands afterwards. You should also use tissues when sneezing or coughing. If there are no tissues available, be sure to sneeze and cough into your elbow, not your hands. At school, not all teachers have tissues in their room, so, if you have a runny nose or cough, you should carry around a handheld pack of tissues with you.
“The world isn’t going to supply you with tissues” said Physical Education teacher Tracy Gray.
Catching the flu can leave you sick for one to two weeks. While students may be missing some tests and projects, this isn’t a reason to come to school. According to The New York Times, the flu can be caught by standing as far as six feet away from someone who has it. Ignoring your body’s need for sleep can be the root of your sickness. Proper rest can boost your immune system and help you fight off your sickness sooner. People who tend to sleep less than six hours a night tend to catch illnesses easier than someone sleeping the recommended nine each night. “Listen to your body; you can catch up in everything,” said Gray.
By staying healthy this flu season, the risk of getting sick at school will lower and students won’t have to worry about missing classes, tests and projects. Just by covering up when you sneeze or cough and washing your hands regularly, you can protect a lot of people and, most importantly, yourself.