Predicting what this year’s flu season will have in store is a tough one. The flu virus is unpredictable. While flu spreads every year, the timing, severity and length of the season varies from year to year, and there are many different influenza viruses that are constantly changing. The average flu season starts in October, peaks in January and February and can sometimes last as late as May.
As with the weather, we might not be able to know exactly when and where outbreaks of flu will occur, but we can prepare ahead to protect our families by taking some proactive measures before and after flu season hits.
Protect yourself and your family against flu.
The most important thing to do is to get vaccinated and make sure everyone in the family 6 months old or older is vaccinated (especially children and adults with long-term health conditions).
• Stay away from people who are sick.
• Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as germs spread this way.
• If someone in the home is sick, try to keep them separate from others in the household.
• Keep surfaces like bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys clean by wiping them with a household disinfectant.
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or into your sleeve to help prevent the spread of germs in the air.
• Throw away tissues and other disposable items used by anyone in the family who is sick.
Be proactive and stock up on supplies.
If you have ever discovered your toddler has a fever in the early hours of the morning and there is no children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen in the bathroom cabinet, you know why being prepared with basic health supplies is important before the flu season strikes. Plan now and put together your “flu preparedness” tool kit including:
• Over-the-counter pain medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for adults and children.
• Tissues • Sore throat lozenges or spray
• Decongestant (medicine to clear the nose and chest)
• A thermometer
• Alcohol-based hand sanitizers
• Anti-bacterial household cleaners and wipes (for cleaning surfaces).
• Foods that are easy on the stomach, such as broth and soups, saltine crackers and applesauce.
• Fluids to stay hydrated, such as Gatorade or Pedialyte (for children).
Keep your doctor or pediatrician in the loop.
Contact your doctor or pediatrician if you or a family member exhibits flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. If the person who is sick does not get better after several days or if their condition worsens, notify the doctor immediately.
Stay at home until the chance of infecting others has passed.
If you or a family member has had the flu, stay home from work, school or any place where you come in contact with other people for at least 24 hours after fever is gone. (Fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) A fever is defined as 100°F (37.8°C) or higher.
Hand Washing Tips
Wash hands with soap and water (for as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice) to help protect against many germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. For more about preparing for the 2014 – 2015 flu season, visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov.