Brace yourself! Because flu season 2015 – 2016 is just beginning and kids, the elderly and the chronically ill are more prone to becoming infected with the flu virus than you or me. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already estimated that about 36,000 people in the United States alone will die from the flu this year. That number could increase, all depending on how many flu strains are resistant to the antiviral medications. Pretty scary stuff!
As an overprotective mother of my three children, I cannot stress the importance of educating them about the flu and what they can do to prevent it. As a nurse, I have already started taking precautions since the odds are I will be surrounded by flu and virus germs where I work.
For those that want to steer clear of this lovely virus this season, there are things that you and your family can do to prevent the flu from entering your home and attacking your family.
- Educate your family about the flu.
The flu is a respiratory illness. It is contagious, and it is caused by influenza viruses that affect the lungs, throat, and nose. It can present a variety of symptoms, such as muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, sore throat, cough, stuffy or runny nose, and fever of 100 degrees F or higher.
The flu virus is spread through droplets of an infected person when they talk, cough, sneeze, or even touch objects and surfaces. Believe it or not, flu germs can travel about six feet away.
- Avoid contamination.
Stay away from people that are sick. It’s an obvious tip, but sometimes it can be the hardest thing to do. Try not to come within six feet of a flu-infected person or touch things they have touched.
For that matter, don’t share drinking glasses, utensils, snacks, or other items with anyone, because the flu infected person may not show symptoms. Don’t touch surfaces that might be contaminated such as light switches, telephones, faucets, doorknobs, counters, flush handles, TV remotes and computer keyboards or mouses.
Use an antibacterial cleaner to clean high-touch surfaces where germs can be transferred from person to person – like countertops, light switches, doorknobs, computers, remotes, keys, and even refrigerator handles. Clean your kitchen sponges and towels often.
Keep your hands clean! Wash with soap and warm water for fifteen to twenty seconds and rinse well. Dry hands thoroughly after cleaning them. Wash your hands frequently throughout the day especially before and after eating; after petting animals; before and after school or school activities like recess, gym and labs; after handling cafeteria trays, touching vending machines or door handles, or disposing of trash; and always, always always after using the restroom! If you can’t wash, use a hand sanitizer or a wipe.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Stay healthy: keep hydrated so your mucus membranes stay moist. After all, the mucus keeps bacteria and germs from piling up in our bodies! Get some good sleep, manage your stress, eat a balanced diet, exercise, and drink fluids.
3. If you become infected, make the chain of infection stop with you.
Once the virus enters your body and you become infected, symptoms begin to appear within 1 to 4 days.
Keep lots of tissues available in the home. When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. After use, be sure it ends up in the garbage pail and not laying around on the countertops.
No tissue handy? Try sneezing into the fold of your arm (the inside of your elbow). Avoid sneezing into your hands.
You are contagious for 5 – 7 days after showing flu symptoms. Stay at home…you need to rest anyway.
Avoid contaminating high-touch surfaces and have someone clean these frequently while you are sick.
In closing, the risks of flu complications are serious – bronchitis, sinus or ear infection, and pneumonia. If you do become sick, take recuperation seriously. Get as much sleep as possible. Keep hydrated. Visit your doctor: antiviral medicines work best within 48 hours of the first presence of symptoms.