Each year, millions of people suffer from a cold or flu and this year is likely to be no different. Between 15 and 61 million people in the United States will get the flu this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Temperature taking is a key indicator of flu patterns and should be taken seriously, says Mary Pappas, the New York area school nurse credited with first alerting officials about the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. “The flu usually comes with a fever while the common cold does not, so taking your temperature is the easiest way to tell the difference,” she says. A high or prolonged fever can be an indicator of when to seek medical attention, so it's important to monitor your temperature on an ongoing basis when you are sick.
Pappas has been taking temperatures for nearly 30 years and, as a school nurse, takes as many as 50 per day. But whether it's one temperature or 100, she maintains that the most important consideration is that it be accurate. While there are many types of thermometers available, Pappas favors the Exergen TemporalScanner because of its proven accuracy and ease-of-use; all it requires is a simple swipe across the forehead.
“Whether it's a student at my school or a parent at home, I know taking a temperature can be a challenge, especially with young children who may be uncomfortable and fussy,” says Pappas. “What I love about the TemporalScanner is that it's not invasive like an ear, rectal or oral thermometer. No matter what a student comes to see me for, I'm able to get an accurate reading. It's so easy to use that you can take someone's temperature even when they are sleeping and not disturb them.”
To help you prepare and cope throughout the cold and flu season, Pappas recommends the following school nurse-approved tips:
1. Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water to help prevent the spread of germs, or use hand sanitizer. Many public buildings provide hand sanitizer, so when you see it, use it.
2. Avoid sharing drinks or food with others unless you want to share their germs.
3. Frequently clean commonly touched areas like doorknobs and light switches.
4. Always cover your mouth with your elbow or sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
5. Throw away tissues immediately after use.
6. If you have a fever, monitor your temperature regularly and check with your doctor about taking a fever reducer and an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen.
7. Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated.
8. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air and help drain congestion.
9. Stay home from work or school if you are sick to avoid spreading germs and make sure your fever is gone for at least 24 hours before you return.
10. Consider speaking with your doctor about getting a flu shot. They are conveniently available in many physicians' offices, pharmacies and public health centers.
Remember that while a cold is rarely serious, the flu can lead to additional complications, particularly in young children and the elderly. For more information on how to prepare for the cold and flu season, visit www.exergen.com/coldfluseason.