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Dr. Christina Johns
Senior Medical Advisor, PM Pediatrics

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Three boys are sick at home, coughing and sneezing into tissues. They rest on the couch while they recover from their illness.

Can you avoid the flu when a family member has it?

Think you can’t avoid the flu if someone in your family brings it home? Think again. It’s hard but worth a try. Try executing these six tips at the first sign your family member may have it.

Get a Flu shot.

It’s not too late. The best way to avoid the flu when it is circulating is to get immunized before exposure happens. It takes about 2 weeks for the body to mount an adequate response to avoid getting the flu. The flu shot is never 100% effective, but having some protection is better than none – and no, getting the flu shot does not cause the flu. Once exposed to someone who has the flu, if you get infected, it is usually about 1 to 5 days after coming in contact before symptoms appear.

Play Keep Away.

As hard as this sounds, keep the sick family member away from the rest of the family. For adults this won’t take much convincing. For kids it may be hard to keep siblings away. Do the best you can. Designate one room as the “sick room” and try to keep the individual with the flu in that room and out of others.  Consider putting a mask on the ill family member to help avoid spreading more germs from coughs and sneezes.

Disinfect ASAP.

Germs can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours. Disinfect surfaces and commonly touched places in your home often. This includes: remote controls, telephones, mobile phones, door knobs, light switches, computers, and children’s toys. Also, keep bed/crib sheets and pillow cases clean.

Wash Your Hands.

Wash hands with warm water and antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds. A good way to remember this is to sing the ABC song or Happy Birthday, twice.Wash hands before and after eating, after coughing or sneezing, and after returning home from public places. Other than a flu shot, this is probably one of the simplest and most effective way to avoid getting the flu. Keep hand sanitizer with you when you’re on the go and don’t have immediate access to warm water and soap.

Don’t touch your face.

Germs are transferred through the nose, mouth and eyes. If you have unwashed hands, you’re at risk for transferring those nasty flu germs

Dispose of Tissues.

Seems obvious, but it’s all about keeping germs at bay. Throw away used tissues, saline wipes, etc. immediately after using them into a trash receptacle with a lid.

Cough/Sneeze in your elbow.

If you find yourself coughing and sneezing, do it into your elbows. Helps prevent germs from spreading!

When it comes to the flu, the most effective way to prevent it or shorten its length is with a flu shot. If you notice your loved one’s symptoms within the first 24-48 hours head to an urgent care or primary care physician to discuss whether or not Tamiflu (oseltamivir) or Xofluza is right for you or your child.These medicines can reduce flu symptoms and illness duration in some people. Tamiflu is usually reserved for high risk individuals: those younger than 2 years and older than 65, those with weakened immune systems, chronic respiratory illnesses, and pregnant women, but everyone should discuss with their healthcare professional what is best for them individually.   And, of course, a smart way to prevent any illness is to get plenty of rest, keep the body healthy and strong with a diet rich in fruits, veggies, healthy grains, lean protein,and getting plenty of hydration. Stay well, everyone!

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