You've probably heard that this year's flu season has been bad, sending thousands of people to the hospital, and killing 30 children so far in the U.S. Yikes. In fact, this season is comparable to the 2014-2015 flu season, and not wildly out of line with an average year, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But if you have kids, it's natural to panic just a little, and wonder how to protect them — or, if someone has already gotten sick, wonder how the heck you prevent the flu from spreading in your house.
Fortunately, for those of us who are totally freaking right now, experts have sane and easy tips for stopping this dangerous virus from spreading. According to the CDC, the single best way to prevent the flu from bringing down yourself or your family is to get a flu vaccine. If you didn't get one, or you are one of the unlucky people who managed to get the flu anyway, all is not lost — you can still get a flu shot and boost our herd immunity (the vaccine will also reduce the severity and likelihood of hospitalization should you get the flu). And if you have flu symptoms like fever, a cough, a sore throat, a runny nose, body aches, or fatigue, the CDC recommends limiting contact with other people, and staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone to prevent the flu from spreading. Healthline advises covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, to stop touching your face, and to wash your hands with soap or use hand-sanitizer frequently to kill the virus.
So what do you do once quarantined in your hovel with 1000 multifacted pieces of Lego just waiting to have their surfaces contaminated? Read on to find out all the ways you can keep you and your kids safe from the flu this year, according to experts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by far the best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine. If you didn't get one, yet, though, and someone in your family gets the flu, it might be too late to help. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it can take up to two weeks for your body to produce the antibodies necessary to protect you. They recommend that everyone six months or older get a flu vaccine every season, as soon as it's available, to protect both themselves and people who are too young or unable to get a flu shot from getting sick.
When you do cough or sneeze, the CDC reminds you to cover your mouth. Not only is it good manners, but it can stop the flu from spreading to other people in tiny droplets of your saliva and mucus. So gross. You should teach your kids to cover their mouths, too, or if they are too young, should hold them over your shoulder to avoid their germs from getting coughed in your face.
According to Healthline, one important way to stop the flu from spreading is to stop touching your damn face. If you are sick, you can easily spread the virus if you touch your infectious mouth, eyes, or nose and then touch surfaces, or other people. Eww.
Speaking of your hands, you should wash them, often. According to the CDC, soap and water can kill the flu virus, or if it's not possible to wash your hands, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill the virus.
Kids are gross, you guys. If one of your kids has the flu, or even if they don't, it's a good idea to disinfect their toys each night. According to Michigan State University, sanitizing your kids' toys and wiping down surfaces can go a long way towards stopping viruses from spreading. You can soak hard toys in a solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach for each gallon of warm water or spray them down and let them air dry. According to the CDC, soft toys can be washed and dried in the machine, as detergent and temperatures above 167 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the flu virus. If a toy can't be washed or sanitized, you should probably consider putting them away until flu season is over.
According to Mayo Clinic, wearing a surgical mask has been shown in studies to prevent the spread of the flu. So, if you have the flu, you might wear one to prevent your kids from getting sick, especially if you are caring for a baby who is too young to get vaccinated. Likewise, if your kid has the flu, you might wear one to avoid getting sick yourself.
According to the CDC, if you get the flu, your doctor might prescribe antiviral drugs, which can shorten the duration of the flu and prevent complications. While not a substitute for vaccination, one antiviral medication — Oseltamivir — can prevent influenza infection in children 1 and older and adults who are exposed to the illness. So, if you get the flu, it's worth asking your doctor if they recommend one for you or your family.
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