PARKERSBURG - Getting a flu shot, maintaining good nutrition, getting plenty of sleep and regular handwashing are all components in trying to stay healthy this winter.
The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department is still offering flu shots and Renee Swisher, MOVHD clinical services secretary, said the vaccinations will probably be available until the end of February.
"We provide the schedule for shots according to what our medical doctor advises. We are offering walk-in clinics from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the health department," Swisher said, referring to the main headquarters at 211 Sixth St. in downtown Parkersburg. "We are seeing more of the elderly, those 65 and older. Ages 6 months and up can get the shots. We have six county offices. You can call and coordinate through our outreach offices for other counties."
June Rhodes, Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department Women, Infants, Children Program director, with one of the informational displays at WIC headquarters. (Photo by Pamela Brust)
The health department began offering flu shots in September, including businesses that request the shots be given at their location.
"We've had about 37 businesses sign up. We need to have at least 10 people sign up at the location to offer the immunizations at the businesses," Swisher said.
Those interested can call the health department at 304-485-7374 to check on flu shot clinics or visit the department's website at www.movhd.com.
Health officials offer the following tips in the quest to stay healthy this time of year: every time you shake someone's hand, wash yours; avoid touching your nose and eyes, common havens for germs; get 8-10 hours of sleep a night; get a flu shot; build immunity by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; exercise; keep your distance from those displaying symptoms like sneezing and coughing and use sanitizing gel or alcohol-based hand wipes.
If you cough or sneeze try to do so into the crook of your arm, not into your hands. If you are sick, stay home and take care of yourself; watch your symptoms and contact a doctor if needed. Remember dehydration can easily occur especially if you have a fever or are vomiting.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, during the 35-year period, flu activity most often peaked in February (16 seasons, or 46 percent of the time), followed by January (seven seasons or 20 percent of the time) and March and December (which each peaked during four seasons, or 11 percent of the time.)
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine annually along with those at high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get sick with the flu. This group includes those who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease; pregnant women; people 65 years and older; and people who live with or care for others who are high risk of developing serious complications.
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
June Rhodes, director of the MOVHD's Women, Infants, Children Program, advised practicing good nutritional habits year round and said frequent handwashing before, during and after cooking and eating are helpful.
"Good nutrition is a key to staying healthy all year round. We are encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables which contain vitamins and minerals that support our immune system. Vitamin C, for example, is useful in the proper functioning of our immune system and can be found in a number of fruits and vegetables. It is recommended we eat five-10 servings a day. That sounds like a lot, but when you consider a serving size is one-half cup, it's not that much," Rhodes said. "Zinc is also a valuable nutrient and it is found in most beans and meats."
Rhodes, who has been a registered dietician for more than 30 years, advised everyone to read food labels before buying to be aware of nutritional values. WIC-approved products are required to meet certain federal nutrition standards.
"It's also important to remember that hands spread germs and you need to wash your hands before you prepare food, while you are preparing food, and before you eat," Rhodes said.
The WIC program in Wood County currently has about 2,500 participants. The program is a federal nutrition program that provides free nutrition counseling and education, breastfeeding support, nutritious foods, and access to health care for eligible participants. To qualify for the program, you must be pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum, and/or have children under the age of 5 years. Contact the health department at 304-485-7374 to determine eligibility.