Editorial: Taking care

The news of a New Canaan fourth grader’s death — due to complications of the flu — is shocking and tragic. And it really hits home.

Too often we think these are the things that happen to other people. Then this happens and we realize it can happen to us.

A virus is a very scary thing. There is little we can do but treat the symptoms and hope our immune system can overcome it.

In the case of flu, however, there are things people can do to prevent illness, or at least lessen its severity. First, get a flu shot. Even if it does not protect you 100% it will lessen the intensity of any flu that you contract.

Second, wash your hands. That is probably the single most effective way to prevent the flu. Keep some hand sanitizer with you when washing with soap and water isn’t possible. Also, it’s important to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw away used tissues. Always cough or sneeze into your elbow. Wipe down shared surfaces at work or home — telephones, countertops, doorknobs.

Finally, if you become ill, stay home. Do not go to work or run errands where you can make someone else sick. Unless you are seriously ill, do not go to the emergency room. See your own doctor. If your child becomes ill, do not send the child to school. Take the child to the pediatrician.

Flu shots are readily available at most local pharmacies and at the offices of Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County. See our story on page 1A for details.

Flu can be very serious among young children, older adults, and people with chronic illnesses like asthma, heart disease, or diabetes. It comes on quickly, bringing with it fever, cough, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes a stuffy nose and sore throat.

If symptoms are addressed within 48 hours, they can be lessened with the anti-viral medication Tamiflu. But that is not a cure.

The best defense is prevention: Get a flu shot and wash your hands often. Practice good health habits overall. Get plenty of sleep, exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods.