By Colleen Harvot, Director of In-Home Care, Valley VNA Senior Services 

The core mission of Valley VNA is to help keep seniors happy and healthy in their homes, whether their individual houses or here at our independent and assisted living apartments.

You, too, have a role to play in fulfilling this mission. What do we ask of our employees, volunteers, and visitors when they come down with a nasty bug? It all boils down to treating others as you wish to be treated. No one wants to catch a germ from someone who should’ve just stayed home in bed. Why not just stop—the world will get along for a day without you—and heal yourself while you spare your family, friends, and co-workers from the flu? Here are some things you should know:

1. What is a germ? Viruses cannot survive or reproduce on their own. They need a warm body as a host. Bacteria do survive independently and also invade the human body. “Germs” is a generic term to describe both of these infectious agents. Antibiotics only kill bacteria and have no effect on viruses.

2. How germs spread. Germs can be in the air all around you, or in sweat, nasal mucus, blood, and other bodily fluids. Door and faucet handles, telephones, keyboards, refrigerator doors, and vending machine buttons contain a lot of germ clusters. It is essential to wash your hands frequently and well to keep from getting sick.

3. The role of fever. A fever is generally considered anything above 100.3 degrees. It’s a sign your body is actively fighting off an infection. To win the battle and avoid spreading the infection, you have to stop everything and rest.

4. Coughing makes you unpopular. If you have a bad cough that is frequent, loud, or painful, you are spitting germ droplets into the air around you. A really bad cough can even indicate a secondary sinus infection, bronchitis, or pneumonia. You should go to the doctor, not run errands or to your friend’s house.

5. Groggy is not good. Visits with your loved ones should be positive and happy, not sleepy and miserable. Cold medications may make you feel better temporarily, but they do not get rid of your illness. You could still be contagious.

6. Sleep it off. Most of us push ourselves to get through our normal schedules when we are sick. Cancel your plans, including work, volunteering, or worship, to stay home and rest. Sleep should be the only item on your agenda, not chores or e-mail or other “have-to” tasks.

7. Drink more. Water is needed to transport all nutrients, hormones and even wastes through our bodies, so it’s important to avoid dehydration, an often overlooked aspect of sickness. TIP: Take your body weight (in pounds) and divide it by two. This is the number of ounces of water that you should be drinking every day to stay properly hydrated. It’s even more important when you are sick.

8. Get Immunized. An annual flu shot boosts your body’s defenses, or at least makes the flu milder if you do catch it. Influenza is very contagious, and seniors experience a natural decline in their immunity as they age. When it stops with you, you save others from the flu.

Here’s the nugget: If you don’t feel well because of a fever, cough, or fatigue, don’t feel guilty about taking a day off. Do not worry that the sky will fall without your arms to hold it up. Think of it as a gift to the people you know and love. They’ll thank you for it.

To learn about 2016 VNA Flu Clinics, call Colleen at (920) 727-5555.