Preparing for cold and flu season
Kids are back in school and that means we get busier than ever. Unfortunately when we get busy, we get run down and susceptible to cold and flu. Here are some tips to help keep you and your family healthy and some advice on dealing with cold and flu should they strike.
What are the symptoms?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both the flu and cold are respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. The flu (typically caused by various strains of influenza including influenza A -- H1N1, or swine flu) are worse and include fever, body aches, extreme fatigue and dry cough. Colds are usually milder and can include stuffy or runny nose. Flu can lead to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia, bacterial infections and hospitalizations, the CDC reports.
The symptoms of the contagious respiratory disease also known as H1N1 include body aches and significant fatigue, as well as sometimes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, the CDC states.
If you are ill, and aren't sure if you have the flu, your healthcare provider can take a swab of your nose and determine if you have influenza. If the symptoms are within a day or two, antiviral medications such as Tamiflu might be prescribed to lessen symptoms.
Practice and teach good handwashing
It can be tough to get kids to wash their hands, but simple reminders like a sign above the light switch in the bathroom, or on the toilet that says "wash hands" or a picture of a child washing hands for the little ones not reading yet can be helpful.
Adults and kids alike should practice a good, soapy rub for at least 20 seconds, the CDC suggests. The CDC also suggests using a paper towel to turn off faucets and open door handles after washing. It might sound a bit over the top, but it's effective. The CDC recommends washing hands before eating, after using the restroom, before and after attending to a sick family member, after diaper changes and after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing.
Make sure to keep hand sanitizers (62 percent ethyl alcohol is best, experts say) with you when you can't wash with soap and rub hands until dry.
Wipe down surfaces
Use sanitizing wipes to clean computers, phones, countertops and doorknobs in your home to prevent cold and flu from spreading.
There are also various sprays and wipes on the market you can use to wipe down shopping carts when out in public.
Teach kids NOT to share
We all love our kids to share, but not their drinks or utensils. Make sure your kids know it's not OK to share drinks with friends or eat from the same utensils as they do, the American Red Cross recommends.
Consider getting a flu vaccine
Talk to your healthcare provider to see if the seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines are right for you.
H1N1: This is a new vaccine. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that certain groups of the population receive the 2009 H1N1 vaccine when it first becomes available. These target groups include:
- Pregnant women
- People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age
- Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
- Persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people ages of 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems
Seasonal flu: The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that these groups be immunized this year:
- Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday
- Pregnant women
- People 50 years of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
- Health care workers
- Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
- Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
"Major risks of the flu shot include allergic reactions to the shot and Guillan Barré syndrome -- a nervous system problem that causes temporary paralysis," says Raphael Darvish, MD, of Brentwood, California. Certain medical problems such as allergy to eggs can make you more susceptible to these problems so it is important to consult with your physician about whether the flu shot is right for you, Darvish notes. Other problems that can occur after a flu shot are a temporary discomfort at the injection site and mild flu-like symptoms for one to three days after the shot, he adds.
Stay home if you are sick
The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone (without the help of fever reducers) except to get medical care. This is to prevent the spread to others. Limit contact with family members.
Remember, don't ever give children who have the flu or cold aspirin for fever or pain relief. It can lead to a complication called Reye's Syndrome, says Fred Lopez, MD, professor and vice chairman of the Louisiana State University Department of Medicine. Reye's Syndrome attacks all organs of the body but is most harmful to the brain and the liver, causing an acute increase of pressure within the brain and often massive accumulations of fat in the liver and other organs, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Talk to your healthcare provider about the right remedies for your family.
Dr. Lopez says you should seek emergency medical care immediately if the person who is ill has difficulty breathing or chest pain, has purple or blue discoloration of the lips, is vomiting and
can't keep liquids down, has signs of dehydration -- dizziness when standing, not urinating or a lack of tears when crying in infants -- has seizures, or appears confused and less
**Please ensure to check with your healthcare providor before taking any medications or supplements or making changes to your diet. This article is for informational purposes only and should in no way replace advice from your healthcare provider.