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Limiting The Spread of Influenza

It seems every year we hear the same thing: "The flu is something to take seriously and is impacting a lot of people." But, that statement again rings true in this 2017-18 flu season. The influenza virus is being aggressive and has claimed lives, hospitalized people, and all in all, has made and will continue to make a great many very ill.

How can you better your chances of avoiding the flu and helping your family to avoid it as well? Read on to learn some ways to minimize the influenza virus making a stop in your home. And if the flu has reared it's head, how to help the rest of your family keep from getting their turn.

1.) Wash Your Hands

It's such a simple thing, right? When we were children in school, we washed our hands consistently. However, as we age, face distractions, hectic schedules, we can forget just such a simple step. Washing your hands in warm water with soap is one of the best methods to keep germs from getting into your T-Zone. That zone comprises the middle of your face: eyes, nose, mouth. Keeping germs off your hands and out of your face can go such a long way towards preventing the flu.

Why is washing your hands such a big deal to preventing the flu? Let's look at some real-life scenarios. Say you are at the grocery store, or opening the door to a school, picking up a magazine in the doctor's office or any number of activities we litter through our daily lives. The influenza virus can live on surfaces for 24 hours. In a flu season when you have so many active possible carriers of the virus this means that many people could be not only carrying the virus but spreading it on these shared surfaces non-stop. So you touch a shared public door handle or another object, then say you rub your eye, eat, blow your nose or anything that would mean your hands go near your face. And now we have a possibility of you contracting the flu virus since it has the opportunity to enter your body through one of these main orifices.

When we wash our hands, this simple act lessens the possibility of the virus entering our body. It makes it so that we can work, cook, eat, drive, basically go about our daily lives without the constant worry of spreading these germs both to ourselves and to our loved ones. You may feel a bit weird to have this hyper-vigilance, but it takes about 30 seconds in warm soapy water a few times a day to have a major impact on lessening the spread of the influenza virus. It's amazing that something as simple as washing our hands can have such a positive impact, but it does.

2.) Control Your Coughs & Sneezes

Most everyone during cold and flu season can get a sniffle, a nagging cough, runny nose or another symptom. It's a fairly common concern in these months, but one measure you can do to help control the spread of germs is to practice the "Vampire." This move buries your face into the crook of your elbow when you cough or sneeze and prevents spittle or spray from going out and attaching to surfaces or being in the air near someone else. It's not only polite, but it also has that added benefit of keeping germs from spreading.

Germs are still present when we cough or sneeze, but a controlled area like the crook of your arm means you aren't sneezing or coughing into your hands which can more easily spread the germs to surfaces or through contact. This way if you do have a cold or flu that your immune system is fighting, you aren't spreading it. Also if someone else's immune system is a bit compromised fighting off an illness, you aren't foisting more germs out towards them. Control that cough and sneeze and we all do our part to keep germs contained. Again something simple, that means a lot.

Also, if you sneeze or cough into a tissue, make sure to throw it away immediately. The flu virus can live in that tissue for several minutes, so make sure you dispose of it in a timely way to keep the spread of the virus down.

3.) Wipe Down Counters and Surfaces Regularly

You ever come home from the grocery store and just "PLOP" those bags right down on the counter or kitchen table? It's something we all do. But do you then wipe the counter or table? Probably not. And in our busy-ness with work or our kids' schedules we can get distracted from regularly cleaning surfaces in our home, especially door handles, counter tops, banisters, or chairs.

As stated above the flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours, so make sure you are wiping down surfaces pretty regularly. At the grocery store, be sure to wipe the handle and the sides of the shopping cart with wipes. Even having your children remove their shoes and leave their backpacks in a mud room can go a long way towards keeping the spread of the flu virus at bay.

These steps can again help keep us from touching an area where the flu virus is sitting, then getting our hands near our face. Cleaning with warm water and soap or another type of surface cleaner will help keep the virus from finding a place in your home. When we say cleaning surfaces, this also includes those smartphones, so make sure you're keeping them clean and hygienic as well.

4.) Quarantine

If someone in your home is diagnosed with the flu or experiences flu-like symptoms, keep them quarantined from others. Isolating them for a few days when they are most contagious will limit their exposure to the rest of the family. It may seem like you are policing their family or social life, but at the same time, you are helping them convalesce and also keeping the risk of transference down.

If you are their primary caregiver during these days, be sure to wash your hands any time you handle anything they have come in contact with: cups, utensils, tissues, clothing, you name it. Look as well for any areas of the home they would have been inhabiting before being diagnosed and thoroughly clean and disinfect those areas as much as possible. Consider even cleaning television or game console remotes, toys, really anything they would have handled.

Something else to consider, wearing a face mask when disinfecting your home, or being around someone in your home with the flu. The flu virus germ can carry as far as three feet when propelled by sneeze or cough. Do what you can to keep yourself free from germ transference.

5.) If You Are Experiencing Flu-Like Symptoms

The flu often presents with the following symptoms:

  • Fever, chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches/pain
  • Lack of energy
  • Runny or stuffy nose

If you think you have the flu, stay home. It may seem like you have to work, go to school, that what you have to do is incredibly important. But your health and the health of those around you must be considered. The best thing to do is to stay home, convalesce for a few days, and seek medical attention, do not try to "tough it out" at work or school.