‘Tis the season – Flu season! Typically the peak of flu season is between December and February, and unless you live in a bubble, chances are you will be exposed to the flu virus during this time. Transmission of the flu virus between people can happen in three ways: 1) by direct contact; 2) by contact with contaminated objects such as toys or doorknobs; and 3) by inhalation of virus-laden droplets. Most people who have the flu are contagious for 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. This means caution is in order during this time of year if you want to stay healthy! The following are 6 ways to protect yourself and your family against the flu virus this season.
1. GET VACCINATED AGAINST THE FLU
The flu virus changes every year, and so does the flu vaccine. The vaccine is safe and effective; getting the vaccine protects you when you are exposed to the virus, lessens the severity of flu symptoms, and prevents you from passing on the virus to your family. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. The flu vaccine is available as a shot or a nasal spray.
It is important to get your flu vaccination early because there is a two-week delay between getting the flu vaccine and the protection it provides . Take other precautions during the two week period to prevent getting ill from circulating flu germs. Visit www.TexasFlu.org for more information on the flu and the flu vaccine.
2. WASH YOUR HANDS
The flu virus mainly spreads by small water droplets when people cough, sneeze or talk. Since your hands come in contact with many items touched by other people, like door handles, they are most likely to come into contact with the virus. Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds will remove most germs. Younger children should be supervised when washing their hands to make sure they are thoroughly clean. If you’re on-the-go you can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
3. DISINFECT SURFACES
Cold and flu viruses can live on surfaces for as long as three hours -- so consider washing counters and tabletops with a virus-killing disinfectant or a bleach-and-water solution (1/4 cup bleach in a gallon of water), especially if someone in the house is already sick. Wipe the light switches, telephones, doorknobs, keyboards, and other things family members share. Wash cups and eating utensils well with soap and hot water between uses. Don't share!
4. AVOID TOUCHING YOUR FACE
As you cannot wash your hands constantly, all day long, reducing the number of times you touch your eyes, nose and mouth can lessen the likelihood of getting the flu virus. The tiny droplets of virus can live up to 48 hours on most surfaces. Everyday objects, such as phones, TV remotes, doorknobs, and computer keyboards become covered with the virus. Just changing the TV channel can transmit droplets to your hands and easily pass on to your face.
5. CONTAIN YOUR SNEEZE
Sneezes come in different varieties. Some sneak up on you and catch you by surprise. Others linger on the tip of your nose, making you cry a little. During flu season a good habit is to sneeze into your inner elbow and not into your hand. If you can catch your sneeze in a tissue, that’s great too! Remember to throw away used tissues immediately.
6. REDUCE CLOSE CONTACT
Protect your kids by avoiding close contact with people who have symptoms consistent with cold or flu. If your child’s friend is congested and coughing, it isn’t a good time for a sleepover. It works both ways though; when your child is not feeling well, keep them home and away from their friends so they are not spreading germs either. Missing out on one night of fun is better than being home in bed for a week!
Also, be cautious of people who stand close while they are talking to you! People with flu can spread it to others up to 6 feet away. When a person sneezes or speaks, the virus is hanging around. By keeping a distance when talking, or minimizing contact when you are sick, you can protect against passing on or getting the virus. If someone in your family does get the virus, reducing their interactions with others can cut down the likelihood of passing the flu to someone else.