This time of year is when the influenza (“flu”) season begins to really kick in. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) is already seeing widespread flu activity throughout the United States, particularly in the Southeastern and South Central states. Flu activity is expected to increase everywhere over the next weeks to months.

What is the flu?

  • A viral illness characterized by sudden onset of fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, cough, and nose congestion.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea can occur with the other symptoms, particularly in younger children. Most people experience a loss of appetite.
  • It is a virus; therefore, it cannot be treated with antibiotics. Some antiviral medications have been developed that can possibly shorten the course of the illness and lessen its severity if started early in its course.

Prevention is key

  • The flu vaccine is the best form of protection. I discussed this vaccine in detail in a previous post. It is recommended for all children 6 months of age and older. You can get the vaccine even after the flu starts in your area. It does, however, take 2 weeks after vaccination for peak immunity to develop.
  • Encourage good hand washing, particularly before eating and after playing with other children, or after visiting public places such as the mall. Teach your child to sing the “Alphabet” song or “Happy Birthday” while soaping up their hands before rinsing.
  • Teach children to cover their mouths or noses when they cough and sneeze. Best to teach them to cough or sneeze into their arms, so they don’t get the germs all over their hands.
  • Throw out used tissues right away. Don’t leave them lying around.
  • Consider stocking your bathrooms with paper towels, especially if you expect a lot of guests. A hand towel that everyone uses is a sure way to spread lots of germs.

While the flu is extremely contagious, there is a lot you can do to keep your family from getting it. Have a healthy holiday season!

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