Coughing, sneezing, sniffling – it’s cold and flu season and for most families, those symptoms have become all too familiar in recent weeks.
National experts are advising that this winter could be particularly brutal for influenza and respiratory illnesses. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help your family make it through the misery.
- Get vaccinated. “The first and most important thing you can do for your family is to get everyone vaccinated against the flu,” advises Dr. John Martinez, an urgent care provider with East Woodland Urgent Care. “Because flu season in California typically peaks in February, it is not too late for the vaccine to take effect and provide some protection. The vaccine may not prevent you from getting the flu but it could lessen your symptoms and the duration.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend the flu vaccine for everyone over the age of six months.
- Don’t share. Sharing cups, utensils, and toothbrushes are obvious no-no’s. However, during cold and flu season, it’s also a good idea to provide everyone in your family with their own towels, both for bathing and for drying hands. At work, sanitize common areas and avoid sharing office supplies when possible.
- Wash your hands. A Minnesota Department of Health Study found that students who washed their hands four times a day reported 24 percent fewer colds and 51 percent less stomach upset. “Washing your hands is vital to stopping the spread of germs,” says Dr. Martinez. “When washing, use soap and warm water. Scrub your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Teach your kids to sing the ABCs while they wash to make sure they do so effectively!”
- Disinfect. While many of us break out the bleach wipes once someone in the family is sick, the best time to disinfect is before an illness appears. Regularly wiping down door knobs, light switches, remotes, and other commonly touched surfaces helps to kill germs before they can infect someone.
- Don’t touch. “When illness is rampant, it is more important than ever to avoid touching your mouth and your eyes – that is the easiest path for germs to enter our systems,” says Dr. Martinez. “And if you are coughing or sneezing, use tissues and dispose of them immediately. Teach your children to do the same.”
- Stay home. If someone in your family does get sick, keep him or her home and isolated as much as possible. When sick people go to school or work (or when they return before they are fully healed), it only serves to spread the illness to others.
John Martinez, MD, is an urgent care provider at East Woodland Urgent Care, a service of Dignity Health Medical Foundation, located at 2081 Bronze Star Drive in Woodland. To learn more, or contact the urgent care center, click here or call 530.668.2600.