This year the flu is said to be one of the worst outbreaks in decades. The state of New York has seen an increase by almost 250% in reported flu cases. In Boston a state of emergency has been declared. The CDC and WebMD have several steps you can take to help prevent the flu from spreading to your family.
As controversial as vaccinations can be, it is still the best known way to avoid the flu. The flu shot is available in two forms:
- The shot contains a killed version of the virus and is approved for individuals as young as 6 months
- The mist, which is a nasal spray, contains a weakened version of the virus and is approved for healthy individuals, who are not pregnant, aged 2 to 49.
Babies under 6 months are very high risk for the flu however can not get the shot. It is strongly suggested that all of their caretakers and siblings get vaccinated instead. Other people at high risk for flu include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic illness such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, and people 65 and older.
The flu shot can cause a few days of a sore arm and a low fever but the flu cannot be contracted from the shot even though it contains a killed or weakened version of the virus. While the best time of year to get the flu shot is early fall, you can still get it at any time during the winter. Currently the shots are in short supply so make sure to phone ahead before you go.
Keep it clean
The flu can be spread from airborne germs from a sneeze or cough or from surfaces touched by someone who is sick. The germs can live on surfaces for up to 8 hours. Make sure you and your family wash your hands with soap and warm water several times throughout the day, especially after shaking hands or other physical contact with another person. For small children a good rule of thumb for hand washing is to wash for as long as it takes to sing the alphabet song.
If you can't get to a sink, keep some alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your car or bag so it's available when you need it. Along the same lines, carry sanitizing wipes to wipe off hard surfaces like restaurant tables and shopping cart handles before using them.
Stay in good health
Eating a balanced diet and exercising may sound cliche but both are an excellent way to keep your body healthy and strong and therefore help it fight off any pending illness. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night will also help keep your body and immune system strong.
If you or a family member do get sick, a few steps can be taken to keep from spreading it to other people. Antiviral medication can be taken for flu symptoms to help bring down fever and keep you more comfortable however you should stay in bed and away from other people as much as possible until you feel better and your fever is down for at least 24 hours without the aid of medication. Sneezing into your elbow as opposed to your hand is the best option to keep germs from spreading. Finally, make sure you throw away any used tissues rather than leave the germs for someone else to find.
If your child is goes to daycare, school, or another facility with other children make sure you take some time to talk to them about the steps they're taking to keep the kids healthy. However if you teach your kids at home to follow these steps they will also be less likely to bring the flu home with them.
What steps do you take to ward off illness? Do you swear by zinc or take a lot of extra vitamin C? Please share in the comments!