Because it's your health...

Influenza, commonly called "the flu," is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus. It is spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing. Compared with most other viral respiratory infections, influenza often causes a more severe illness. Typical influenza illness includes fever and respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, plus headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue. Most people who get the flu recover completely within one to two weeks.

Here are some strategies for protecting yourself from getting the flu:

-Wash your hands frequently.

-Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

-Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

-Avoid contact with people who are sick.

-Do not attend classes or meetings if you are sick.

-Consult with your health care provider about the use of antiviral medications if you do become ill with the flu.

Health Services still has a small supply of free flu vaccine for students and it is not too late to be vaccinated. Please note that you may still get the flu even if you are vaccinated, but your symptoms will be much less severe and you will recover more quickly. Call Health Services for an appointment at 245-5736.

Question: What is the correct way to wash your hands? I got into an argument with my roommate about it.

Hand-washing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect yourself from many infectious diseases. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces. Wash for at least 20 seconds. It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs. You can use regular soap; antibacterial soap is not necessary. When soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers. If using a gel, rub the gel in your hands until they are dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in the gel kills germs that cause colds and the flu.

Question: I have been on the birth control pill for about two years now. I always get my period on the same day every month. This month, it came on the right day, and it only lasted 24 hours. I took a pregnancy test and it said I was not pregnant, so why would my period do this?

This is not uncommon or dangerous. Even though you have been on the pill for two years and your period has been the same, there are many factors that can change your menses. The most common of these include stress as well as changes in eating, sleep, illnesses, etc. As long as you have taken a pill every day, there is little chance of pregnancy and an alteration in your period - even no period at all - is benign.

(This column is courtesy of the Lauderdale Center for Student Health and Counseling. YAWA is an anonymous, online Q & A Service on the Health & Counseling Web site. If you have a question for YAWA, log onto go.geneseo.edu/yawa)