Did you know that each year an average of 20,000 children aged 5 years or younger are hospitalized due to flu-related complications? Influenza, commonly known as the flu, causes more trips to the hospital than any other vaccine-preventable disease. In addition to getting your annual flu shot, there are ways that you can protect yourself and your family this flu season, reducing your chances of getting the virus and spreading it to others. The CDC recently published tips for parents on healthy choices that can be made at home and in the classroom to avoid the spread of flu this upcoming season.
Think you may have the flu? Stay home. As with many illnesses, the best way to prevent the spread of germs is to stay away from others when you think you may have become infected with the flu virus. Work, homework, and errands can wait. Even if you believe your resistance to the flu is stronger than others, think again. Exposing the flu virus to the elderly, young children, and expectant mothers should make you think twice about your decision to get out of bed and take that bus to work. When you are sick, avoiding close contact to people with weakened immunities not only helps stop the spread of disease but also keeps others safe from becoming seriously ill. This includes your own family members.
Coughing? Cover up. The flu virus is transmitted through the air, so covering up a sneeze and/or a coughing fit with a tissue or your bent arm by the elbow helps keep the germs under control. Tissues are an ideal remedy for stopping to spread the disease because after every sneeze or cough, they can be tossed in the trashcan. The worst way to block a sneeze or cough is by the use of your open hand. Why? Because right after you sneeze you may grab a doorknob or borrow a pen, transmitting the virus very quickly. By teaching young children the proper way to contain a sneeze or cough now, they will successfully continue the techniques they learned when they are older.
It’s flu season: wash your hands often. No matter what time of year it is, it’s always best to wash your hands often. With flu season upon us, it’s even more important to wash hands with warm water and soap. Also, take your time when washing. Experts say it’s best to wash hands for about 20 seconds. By washing the back of your hands, in between fingers, and under the fingernails you are protecting yourself (and others) from contracting the flu virus. Don’t have soap and water handy right after a cough? Keep an alcohol-based disinfectant handy until you can wash up at the sink. For children, it’s recommended that they sing a song or the ABCs while at the sink. This makes hand-washing go by much quicker and makes it a bit more fun!
Don’t be touchy! Unfortunately, most of us have a bad habit of touching our face while working at the computer or sitting at our desk, which may include itching our nose or rubbing our eyes. Germs are spread from the items we touch throughout the day to our hands and then quickly passed on to our eyes, nose, and mouth, exposing us to potential illness. Younger children often share toys and put items in their mouth (especially when teething), and this also can spread germs to others. When you try to avoid touching your face throughout the day and wash hands regularly, the odds are in your favor for staying healthier this flu season. Because it’s nearly impossible to stop a younger child from sticking items in their mouth, the last tip is very important.
Disinfect commonly used surfaces and objects. Keeping a tidy toy room, classroom and home disinfected during flu season is crucial. Frequently touched surfaces, especially when a family member or classmate is sick, are a germ breeding ground for the flu. There are many over the counter disinfectant spray options for cleaning surfaces and several today don’t include harsh chemicals. Hot water and soap work wonders too!
Want more information on keeping your family healthy this flu season? Download this informative two-page document from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention website to share with loved ones: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/everyday_preventive.pdf. Dr. Kellow and Dr. Shaw can also discuss other preventative tips with you. You may also call our office to schedule a flu shot for your child or ask questions about immunizations for the 2016-2107 Influenza Season. Our office number is 618-235-2311.