We are off to a great start for 2013. Let me revise that statement, we are cough to a great start. Cold and flu season is going full tilt and has taken my poor spouse with it.
According to the CDC Seasonal Influenza reports, our region (U.S. Public Health Region 10, AK, ID, OR, WA) has elevated numbers of cases of “influenza-like illness (ILI).” A visit to the local urgent care provided further intelligence on the local ILI scene. Coughing and misery abounded. The providers reported that “there are a lot of people with the same thing.”
My spouse came down with an ILI just at the end of finals before Christmas. He recovered pretty well and was symptomless when we traveled to visit family for Christmas. He had a relapse day before yesterday when we were still visiting with his mother. I took one look at him and sent him straight back to bed. His mother got zinc cough drops. I got the Lysol. No need to share.
We follow the “thanks for not sharing” stay at home when you are sick philosophy. After weighting the risks of staying in his 90 year old mom’s house and dashing home on the plane, we chose not to change our airplane tickets and came home yesterday as planed. He kept his head down and tried not to cough on anyone. I followed behind him with hot tea, daytime and nighttime cold remedies and the Lysol. I am not sure that all of my good public health hygiene helped. So many people were coughing on the plane it is a mercy that we all are not sick. People were walking around with bags of cough drops offering them to each other cross-pollinating the regional differences of ILIs.
It is a good thing that I am ILI-less, someone needs to be able to let the plumber in when he comes to replace the hot water heater.
We went to bed as soon as we got home last night. This morning I got up looking forward to a nice hot shower to wash off the travel. This house is so huge that it takes a long time for the hot water to get to the upstairs bathroom. I turned it on and waited. And waited. And waited. I finally said, “Something is not right here.” I went downstairs and checked other faucets, no hot water. After tromping around trying to figure out which of the four different fuse boxes, two inside and two outside in the snow, controlled the hot water heater it was clear that nothing was wrong with the fuse. Something is wrong with the hot water heater.
Hot water is a key part of any infection control plan. We have no hot water but we do have a 1974 dishwasher here that works surprisingly well. As I suspected, it has an independent heat source for the water. We may be a bit smelly but we can get the dishes clean and disinfected.
At the close of the day when we were making a thermos of tea to take to bed for overnight hydration, I commented to my spouse that we have the hot water problem solved. We can just take a bath in the dishwasher. It is miserable to be sick but it is fun to be able to start 2013 with a laugh.
Here are 6 tips from the CDC for helping control the spread of colds and flu.
1. Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
2. Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
3. Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
4. Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits.
Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
For more information about ILI, see the CDC Key Facts about Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine. For information about