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How to keep your family flu-free this fall and winter

Stop flu in the family with simple steps

Every year flu season comes around with a bang. And no one feels it more than people who have families. Living so closely together puts everyone at risk for catching each other’s germs, and there are several ways you can keep your son from passing the flu on to your daughter, or keep your entire household flu free.

No one likes to have to miss school or work to stick around the house and be sick. Just by taking a few simple steps and making some small concessions in your daily routine, you can keep the sniffles, fever and all those other fun flu symptoms at bay.

First and foremost, make sure every member of your household gets the flu shot. While the flu shot doesn’t guard against every strain of flu and is therefore not a guarantee that you won’t get it, it still guards against many of the most common strains of flu and can lower your chances of getting the flu. If need be, make an appointment with your family doctor so you can all go in and get the shot at the same time. Most insurances cover the entire cost of the shot, and the ones that don’t require only a small copay. If you don’t want to take a week day to see your doctor, take the family to the pharmacy. Most national chain pharmacies begin offering flu shots in late September or early October.

Because the flu shot is not a guarantee that you won’t get the flu, you also need to make sure your whole family knows how to keep germs from spreading during flu season. Washing your hands frequently is a good way to keep the germs from entering your system. Purchase your soap according to your target audience. For instance, if you have a teenage girl, take her into a fun bath and body shop and let her buy her own higher-end anti-bacterial soap. If you have small children, look for soap that foams or bubbles or comes in fun colors. If they have the incentive to do so, your kids will start washing their hands more frequently.

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Small children put things in their mouths. This is something most parents of small children have just come to accept over the lifetime of their parenting experience. If you have two or more very small children, make sure they don’t share pacifiers. The easiest way to do this is to get a pacifier ribbon that is a different color for each baby. You and they will get used to going to the right ribbon for the right child. In addition, you can cut back on germ sharing by ensuring you put all used sippy cups directly into the sink or dishwasher. That way the smaller children won’t take a drink out their brother or sister’s used cup. Use a new cup for each child each time you give them something to drink.

You and your husband or partner may have the same habit as some of your children: sharing a cup. This is not wise during flu season. While it may be convenient to fill up that iced tea glass or cup of soda and share it throughout the evening, cutting back on dishes, remember you’re still sharing germs in flu season, and new strains of the flu have gotten so bad that people are dying from them. Sharing that cup might seem easy, but in the long-run it’s better to protect yourself. That goes for your kids, too. No sips out of Mom’s cup. Kids get their own cups.

Wipe down surfaces every time you think about it. Counters, tables, furniture, door knobs and many other things you touch regularly carry millions of germs. You can also wipe down your kids’ toys every few days. Kids put things in their mouths, so making sure their toys are germ free will keep them from getting all of those nasty contaminants into their systems.

Ensure everyone has enough Vitamin D, which will activate their immune cells, helping them to fight off cold and flu symptoms. Vitamin D can be found many places, and one of those places is in whole milk. While it is high in fat, it’s a good way to make sure your kids get enough Vitamin D. If your child is not a milk drinker or has a milk allergy, there are many other sources of Vitamin D out there that don’t require taking a supplement. Vitamin D sources include juice, cheese, eggs and salmon.

So before you find yourself taking care of a house full of sick people, think about the various ways you can help your family guard itself against the dreaded flu. You will all be happier if you’re all healthy.

Image credit: Morguefile