The winter months have a tendency to bring us together. And all of that togetherness often leads to the unintentional spread of a variety of illnesses, including influenza.
A communicable respiratory disease that produces such symptoms as headache, sore throat, cough, fever and muscle aches, influenza (also known as the “flu”), tends to be most active between the months of November and April, when we spend the majority of our time indoors.
This highly contagious illness can land you in bed for several days and lead to serious complications which could result in hospitalization or even death. It’s therefore important to take the necessary steps to both avoid it and spread it.
Here are some tips to keep yourself, your family and those around you healthy this season:
Get the Flu Shot
The flu shot offers the best protection against influenza. Getting vaccinated helps to prevent infection and reduce the severity of the illness. Because the virus tends to change from year to year, the Government of Canada updates its vaccines annually. It’s therefore important to get “the shot” every autumn in order to allow your body to produce the antibodies that will protect you from the various strains that may affect your system.
Who should get immunized?
Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine. It is especially important for individuals who are at a higher risk of developing the flu to get vaccinated every year. These people include:
- Pregnant women
- Kids younger than two but older than six months (babies younger than six months are too young for the vaccine)
- People 50 years of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People who live in or work in nursing homes, long-term care facilities or hospitals
- Parents of babies less than six months of age
For additional information about Canada’s flu vaccine program, including information on who should or shouldn’t receive the flu shot, please visit the Health Canada website.
Wash Your Hands
Because the flu can be passed on to others through objects that were touched by infected people, it’s important to wash your hands frequently. Kids have a tendency to touch their eyes, nose and mouth which is how the virus enters the system. Teach them to wash their hands properly and consider bringing hand sanitizer whenever you leave the house.
Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system. It’s therefore important to get enough. Put the kids to bed at the same time each night and, six hours before you go to bed, avoid consuming caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
A proper healthy diet can boost the immune system. Vitamins play a big role in preventing such illnesses as colds and the flu. Stay away from processed foods and stock up on fresh vegetables, fruit and 100% fruit juice.
Flu Season Etiquette
Because the flu is easily spread through such bodily fluids as mucous and saliva, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and respect other people. Some “flu etiquette” rules to follow include:
- Coughing into your elbow – Teach your kids to cough into their elbow rather than their hands.
- Frequent hand washing – Teach your kids how to properly wash their hands and be a good role model by washing your own hands frequently.
- Staying away from daycare or playdates – If your child has a fever of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or higher or a runny nose that is “green and hard to clean”, it’s best to keep her away from other kids until the illness has passed.
With flu season upon us, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself, your family and the people around you from this contagious seasonal illness.