We are in the throes of flu season now. This illness—a really, really bad cold along with fever and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea—can be not only miserable, but dangerous. Every year thousands of people end up in the hospital with complications, and some die.Luckily, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your family—and your community. This is an important point, because for some peers in your community the flu is especially dangerous. The very young, the very old and those with health problems that affect their immune system can get extremely sick with the flu. It may be true that you or your family members would weather the flu just fine—but your grandmother, your neighbor’s newborn, or the child at school being treated for cancer might catch it from you and not do fine. We need to work together to prevent the flu from spreading.
Three Ways that all of us can prevent the flu in ourselves and others:
- Wash your hands.This sounds so simple, but honestly, it makes a huge difference. The flu virus can be passed when sick people (who have touched their nose or coughed into their hands) touch surfaces or other people. Just washing your hands (with soap and water or with hand sanitizer which is easy to carry around) can stop you and others from getting sick.
- Stay away from sick people (as best you can)—and stay home when you are sick. During flu season, it’s fine to cancel a playdate if the playmate is sick, or ask about the health of others before inviting them into your home. It’s equally important that you not spread any germs you have; although missing work or missing school can be very inconvenient, if you are sick it simply isn’t fair to others to spread your germs.
- Get vaccinated. The flu vaccine—either the shot or the nasal spray—can be extremely helpful in preventing the flu. It’s not perfect—sometimes people still get the flu after getting vaccinated—but it cuts the chances substantially. The vaccine is safe and widely available from September (or earlier) until spring every year.
If you have any questions, talk to your doctor. And for more information on influenza and how to prevent the flu, visit www. flu.gov.