Experts Advise Flu Preparation Now

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COLUMBIA - Health department officials said Monday they expect a spike in influenza in February, but said people should not wait until then to prepare for illness.

Jessi Kempker of the Cole County Health Department said she does not expect a large turnout for flu vaccinations this year. Kempker said last flu season was mild; therefore, some people will not feel the need to get vaccinated this year.

According to Kempker, cold and flu season peaks in February, but flu shots are most preventive when used in October or November. She also said there is no clear cut way to determine exactly how many people will get flu shots during the season, but the goal is to distribute the entire stock of vaccine every year.

Pharmacist Gene Forrester of D&H Drugstore said the best way to treat cold and flu symptoms is to treat each symptom with its own medicine. He said common medicines that treat a variety of symptoms, like Ibuprofen or Tylenol, combat pain and fever. Forrester said he recommends using a cough suppressant for a cough or a fever reducer for fever instead of medicines that treat a variety of symptoms because some symptoms last longer than others. Symptoms that last longer need longer treatment when compared to symptoms that dissipate quickly.

Forrester also said influenza is much more serious than the common cold and the difference between the two is the fever associated with the flu. He also recommends getting flu shots and honey works as a cough suppressant for children less than four years old. Lastly, both the Cole County Health Department and Forrester recommend washing hands frequently to stop the spread of illness.