5 ways to avoid the flu

Like an early and unwanted visitor for the holidays, flu season is upon us. While it’s an expected part of the season, there are five steps you and children can take right now to avoid coming down with the flu.

Get vaccinated

“The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone older than 6 months,” says Dr. Sherman Alter, medical director of the infectious disease department at Dayton Children’s Hospital. “The flu vaccine will provide children with a great deal of protection, some even from strains that weren’t included in the vaccine this year.”

Good hand hygiene

Children need to use soap and water to create a good lather. Wash hands for 20 seconds, about as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Get in between the fingers and under the nails where germs hide and don’t forget the outside of the thumbs and wrists. Rinse and dry well with a clean cloth or paper towel. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are acceptable, if soap and water are not available.

“To minimize the germs passed around your family, make frequent hand washing a rule for everyone,” says Dr. Alter. “Key times for hand washing include before eating and cooking, after using the restroom, after cleaning the house, after touching animal and family pets, before and after visiting sick friends or relatives, after being outside and after blowing one’s nose, coughing or sneezing.”

Cover coughs and sneezes

The best choice would be to cough or sneeze into a tissue, then immediately toss the tissue in the trash. However, if a tissue is not available, they can turn their head into their sleeve. Coughing into their hand can spread germs onto the next thing they touch.

Never share cups or utensils

It can be tempting, especially around the holidays, to share a bit of something tasty on Mom or Dad’s fork, but you may wind up sharing more than you anticipated.

Eat well and get plenty of sleep

Your immune system can’t fight off the flu bug if it’s not strong and healthy. Provide plenty of fruits and vegetables and the recommended amount of sleep per night for your child.

If your child does get the flu, make sure you keep them home from school or day care until they are better — usually seven days after the illness starts. Dr. Alter says the best way to treat children who have the flu is to make sure they get extra rest, drink plenty of fluids and eat light, easy-to-digest foods like applesauce.

“Parents should pay close attention to children younger than 2 years old because they have smaller airways and cannot handle illness as well as older children or adults would,” says Alter. “Parents should contact a pediatrician if children have any serious symptoms.”

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This look at a children’s health or safety issue comes from Dayton Children’s Hospital. Email: newsroom@childrensdayton.org.