Nothing to sneeze at: How to keep your family healthy this flu season

February is still part of peak flu season. For adults, coming down with the flu can translate to missed work and complications. Children risk missing school and, for younger children, complications related to the flu can be even more severe than in adults – sometimes fatal.

Research shows that an average of 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized for flu-related complications every year. During the 2013-14 flu season, more than 100 flu-related pediatric deaths were reported.

So, how do you ward off the flu in your home to ensure everyone enjoys a healthy, safe and productive winter? It’s easier than you think if you follow these prevention tips.

* Get vaccinated. Vaccination is considered the best preventive measure against the flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older – with rare exceptions, including children younger than 6 months and people with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine – should get the flu vaccine. Many of today’s vaccines cover against three flu strain types (trivalent vaccines), but there are also vaccines available that are designed to broaden coverage by helping to protect against four major strain types, two A strains and two B strains (quadrivalent vaccines). If you and your family have not gotten vaccinated yet, it’s not too late – however, do so as soon as possible because it can take up to two weeks for the antibodies to kick in and provide protection against the flu. Both trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines can be found near you at http://www.flu.gov/stay-connected/vaccinelocator_2011.html or by asking your health care provider. In the event that you do contract the flu, talk with your health care provider about starting antiviral treatment to help treat your flu illness.

* Stock up ahead of time. Defending against the flu requires the right equipment. Make sure your home is full of tissues, hand soap, sanitizer and paper towels. Having these items in place – and using them – ahead of time can help prevent germs from spreading.

* Review hand-washing techniques. Properly washing your hands is an effective way to prevent contracting and spreading the flu. When washing your hands, make sure to do so for at least 20 seconds. Tell children to sing the happy birthday song twice, which will ensure the full 20 seconds.

* Don’t cup your coughs. Coughing into your hands during flu season is a terrible way to risk virus transmission. If you have to cough or sneeze and you don’t have a tissue handy, doing so into your elbow is a much better option.

* Disinfect target areas. Prioritize disinfecting commonly used items in your home like telephones, remote controls, doorknobs and drawer or refrigerator handles.

* Get the paper. If you’re worried about contracting sickness or spreading it, switch to paper towels instead of using traditional hand towels shared by everyone in the household. This can help reduce the risk of germ transmission.

* Don’t let your health habits slip if you contract the flu. One of the most commonly held flu myths is that a person can get the flu only once during flu season. Remember, there are several different strain types of the flu virus, so it is possible to contract a different strain of the flu during the same season. Another common myth is that you can get the flu from the flu vaccine. The fact is that the flu vaccine can’t give you the flu because it’s made with a weakened or inactivated virus or no virus at all.

* Get plenty of sleep. One of the best ways to ward off or to recover from the flu is to ensure you are well-rested. Getting plenty of sleep gives your body time to recover and to combat illness, so avoid that urge to be a night owl and make sure your children stick to their normal bedtimes as well.

People of every age can contract the flu, and it can be especially deadly among seniors and young children. To help protect yourself and your family from the flu, follow the tips above and talk to your health care provider or pharmacist to find out if the flu shot is right for you.

This article is brought to you by GSK.


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