The winter months bring us the holidays, snow, and a new year— but in the United States, winter also means the dreaded time of year known as “flu season.” Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Flu activity often peaks during the fall and winter months, sometimes lasting until May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 9.2 to 35 million people contract the flu each year. Up to 700,000 persons are hospitalized each year due to flu-related complications and there are 12,000-56,000 flu-related deaths annually.
If you are working as a patient care technician (PCT), you may be caring for patients who are at greater risk of contracting the flu and experiencing flu-related complications including young children, pregnant women, adults over the age of 65, and persons suffering from chronic medical conditions. During the winter and holiday season, the patients you care for will likely need your attention and care even more than normal. Rates of depression and illness seem to increase during the colder months and as a provider of patient care, you are in a position to closely care for the health and wellness of your patients during this time.
As a PCT, you can help prevent the spread of influenza in your workplace by taking preventative measures to boost your immunity and encouraging the patients you care for to do the same. To protect the health of both yourself the patients you care for during the colder months, here are a few ways to build up immunity and minimize exposure in order to stay influenza free this season.
Get A Flu Shot
Getting an annual, seasonal flu vaccine is the single best way to keep from getting sick with the flu. The flu vaccine has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of catching the flu, as well as the risk of flu-related hospitalization and death. In addition to getting the flu shot yourself, educate your patients about the benefits of getting their flu shot and encourage them to get their flu vaccine every winter season.
Boost Your Immune System
In addition to getting a flu shot, ensuring your immune system is in good shape to fight off the flu virus is one of the best ways to prevent infection and lessen the severity of the disease. Remind your patients that exercising regularly, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and getting enough sleep are all essential in maintaining a healthy immune system. Especially when flu season rolls around, encourage your patients to take vitamin D supplements like Emergen-C and Airborne. Vitamins C, D and A all have immune-boosting properties that can help you and your patients fight off the flu.
Wash Your Hands and Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Nose or Mouth
Washing your hands regularly is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent spreading germs to others. This simple hygienic task could be the difference between getting sick from the flu and staying healthy. Until you wash your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Research has shown that one single doorknob could spread a virus to 40-60 percent of those who touched it within just 2-4 hours of contamination. Remind your patients to wash their hands frequently, especially after touching communal surfaces like doorknobs or tabletops.
Keep Your Distance
The flu virus is a respiratory illness that is spread by coughing, sneezing, and unclean hands. Remind your patients that if they are around anyone who is coughing or sneezing, it is best to keep their distance to avoid breathing in any germs. In close proximity areas like hospitals and nursing homes, wearing a surgical mask is also an option and could reduce the spread of flu-like symptoms by up to 75 percent.
Flu Virus Treatment
If you or one of your patients become ill with a cold or flu this winter season, be sure to take effective infection control measures. If you are sick, do not go into work. Taking a few sick days will not only allow you to recover quicker, but also prevent you from spreading the virus to the patients you care for. Remember to wipe down any surfaces you touch and wash your hands frequently. Like a common cold, the flu will usually go away on its own without official treatment. However, there are flu medications and antiviral drugs that can reduce the symptoms that come with the flu and expedite recovery time.
Interested In Becoming a PCT?
If you are passionate about caring for others and are interested in the field of nursing or patient care, becoming a PCT could be the perfect career path for you. Woodruff Medical’s accredited Patient Care Technician Training Program will qualify you for positions in a variety of healthcare facilities and prepare you for a successful career in the medical field.