Grab the tissues and cough drops—flu season is almost here! Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease caused by viruses. If your family has ever been hit with the flu bug, you know how awful it can be. I don't know whether it's due to good luck or preparation, but it's been several years since my family has been stricken. Get your family in fighting mode against the flu and other germs by doing these 6 things.
Consider vaccinations. There is debate about the efficacy of influenza vaccinations, but most healthcare professionals are in favor of vaccinations. 3 populations who should consider opting for flu vaccinations are young children, older adults and people with compromised immune systems. Don't wait too long to get vaccinated as it takes about 2 weeks to build immunity. Health insurance generally covers the cost of flu vaccinations, and community health centers often offer flu shot clinics as an easy way to get everyone vaccinated.
Get enough sleep. Without enough sleep, your body can't fight off viruses and bacteria that want to make you sick. Get in the habit of getting to bed on time, particularly if you feel stressed or run down. Help your children get enough sleep too so their bodies can be primed and ready to fight the flu.
Eat well. A balanced diet full of healthful foods will keep you feeling strong. Try to eat several servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Drink plenty of water. Consider taking multivitamins and giving them to your children. Like getting enough sleep, eating well will help your immunity stay strong.
Avoid sick people. If you're sick, try to stay at home. If your children are sick, keep them home until they are well. I know this is easier said than done, but if someone at work complains about feeling like they are getting the flu, steer clear (and go wash your hands).
I avoid crowds and public situations if our family is passing a bug around, even if it means missing out on fun events. I hope others show the same courtesy as much as possible so we can avoid getting the flu.
Practice good hygiene. Every day when my children come home from school, I say the same 2 things: "How was your day?" and "Go wash your hands." I think this second phrase has kept us relatively healthy over the years. In addition to washing hands often, I also disinfect common surfaces often during the flu season. An easy chore for kids is to have them wipe down doorknobs and light switches with disinfecting wipes, but make sure they wash their hands afterwards.
Change hand towels often in commonly used bathrooms and teach children to cough and sneeze into their elbows. Place tissues throughout the house and keep sick people away from the rest of the family. Good hygiene works, so get in the habit.
Track outbreaks near you. Some years, it takes time for influenza to spread, but when it hits your area, it can move quickly. Pay attention to news reports or the CDC website so you can be extra vigilant if influenza is coming your way. Also, schools often warn parents if multiple children are coming down with the same illness.
Staying healthy all winter might seem next to impossible, but with preparation and good habits, your family will be ready for the flu season and have a better chance of staying well.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.