Although it’s not quite cold and flu season yet, school has started and the little ones are bringing home every type of virus, bacteria, and plague around. My co-worker has a daughter in kindergarten who has already been sick twice since school started last month. And don’t forget the illness making national headlines last week: Enterovirus D68. This one is putting kids in the hospital. It’s one bad bug!
Keeping your family safe and healthy is not all that complicated. Here are some tips.
- Wash your hands. I know it has been said (and said again, and again, and again) but it is so important. Wash with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. If you’re not sure how long 20 seconds is, just sing the ABC’s in your head as you wash. Be sure to really scrub between your fingers and under your fingernails too! Teach your kids to do this. Wash your hands before eating, after using the bathroom (or helping others use the bathroom), and after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose whenever possible. If it is not possible to get to a sink, use an antibacterial hand gel. Washing with hot soapy water is best, but the gel will work in a pinch!
- Get a flu shot. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 6 months receive a flu shot every year. It is best to get this vaccination BEFORE flu season hits because it takes a few weeks to become effective.
- Avoid sharing cups, plates, and other eating utensils.
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
- Disinfect frequently used surfaces: doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, phones, keyboards, toys… There are many commercial products on the market that will effectively disinfect these items. There are also some more natural/green products you can make at home that are also effective. I wrote about these green cleaners a while back. Choose what you like! Use it!
- If you’re sick, stay home! Please, oh please, stay home! I cannot tell you how many times I got sick because someone else came to work sick, and even worse, I came to work sick shortly after. Before working for Cooperative Extension, I worked in a hotel. The pressures of this industry made most people (especially lower management) feel guilty for calling in sick. One time my immediate supervisor came to work with the flu. We shared a computer, pens, phones. I got the flu. I came to work with the flu, too! The day I was working while sick was a career fair day. I don’t know how many people I infected because I was scared to call in.
- The same goes for your kids. Most daycare centers and schools have a policy that kids be fever free (or vomit free) for 24 hours before returning. If your kid is sick, do everyone a favor and keep him home until he is feeling better and no longer contagious!
- Know the symptoms. Sometimes people go to work or send kids to school sick because they think it’s just allergies. I live in Oklahoma, and it is often still warm when cold and flu season starts up. During that time of the season, we tend to get a little more rain which can cause allergies to flare up. It is important to know the difference between colds and allergies.
Be mindful of your hygiene. Don’t let your family get sick simply because you weren’t being careful. Don’t let your family get others sick because they didn’t want to miss out on something. Let’s all stay healthy as possible this winter!