This flu season has been rough. A few weeks ago, the CDC released new figures that show the flu is widespread in every state, except Tennessee and Hawaii. Although the overall activity seems to be slowing down, some parts of the country are still seeing an increase.
We’ve put together some tips for preventing the flu from striking your home, as well as links to some good resources on what to do if it does knock on your door. Of course, you should always check with your doctor or child’s pediatrician first before starting any kind of treatment. And even if the flu has passed you by this season (or already hit and run), bookmark this page for next year. Because surely, Mr. Flu will come calling again…
HOW TO PREVENT THE FLU
- Boost your immune system. First, help you and your family’s immune systems stay healthy by eating right and getting regular exercise. Foods like yogurt help intestinal flora stay strong so that viruses have a more difficult time taking hold. Garlic contains allicin, an ingredient that fights infection and bacteria. The health benefits actually outweigh the odor issue, so stock up on your next trip to the grocery store! Also, consider foods with antiviral and immune-boosting properties such as elderberry, which attacks many strains of influenza A and B. Think of it as Nature’s flu shot. We like Berry Well from BeeYouTiful. The blend of ingredients is designed to fight off colds and the flu, but it does contain raw honey, so it should not be given to children under one year old.
Read Related: Mommies Can’t Get Sick! Cold-Busters to the Rescue
- Get a flu shot. The CDC recommends that you get a flu vaccination every year. Most pharmacies offer the flu shot for people ages 14 and older; younger children can get the shot from their pediatrician. After December, many places run out of the vaccine, so don’t wait until it is too late. Some argue that the flu shot doesn’t always keep you from getting the flu, but take heart, even if you do catch the flu after having gotten the vaccine, the odds are that your symptoms will be less severe…and you’ll be less miserable.
- Wash your hands. Frequent hand-washing, especially before you eat, is one of the easiest ways to avoid spreading the flu virus. This is extremely important for children, who need to be trained to wash their hands on a regular basis. And good old soap is a must. I tell my kids that running a little bit of water of their hands just gives the flu bugs a bath, making them nice and clean for when they attack my kids’ immune systems!
WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET THE FLU
- Is it a cold or the flu? First, know the differences in symptoms between a cold and the flu. Take a look at this chart from WebMD to compare the symptoms.
- Rest and more rest. Unless you are at high risk of developing complications, the best thing to do is stay home, rest, and drink plenty of fluids. Monitor your fever, but remember that a fever is your body’s natural defense against the illness. The Mayo Clinic has published this quick guide for treating a fever according to a person’s age.
- Yes, chicken soup. As cliched and trite as it sounds, chicken soup actually does help. It contains an amino acid called cysteine that is released when the chicken is cooked, and it blocks the migration of inflammatory white cells into the bronchial tubes. And adding garlic or onions helps to boost your body’s immune system to fight off the virus. Take a look at these nine power foods that boost immunity, over on Prevention, for additional ideas.
- Play it safe. If you are at high risk (people with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly and young children), then get to the doctor as soon as you begin to show signs of the flu. Your physician can give you an antiviral drug that will minimize the severity of the illness and potentially keep you out of the hospital. The drug works best if given within the first 48 hours. The CDC has a page on its site to help you find out if you are at high risk.