Flu season is upon us! OK, maybe I’m a little late with my announcement but it’s not too late to start thinking about it. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) the season can begin as early as October and end as late as May. There’s no way to tell when it will start, what viruses will be spreading or how long the epidemic will last. But we can take steps to curb and hopefully stop the virus from spreading within our own households.
Those of us who are immune-compromised or have children with disabilities are more susceptible to catching a virus so we must be extra cautious. The CDC did a study on the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak and it was found that a higher number of kids with neurological conditions died from this epidemic than kids without. In fact, 68% of those deaths had an underlying medical condition; 64% of that group had a neurologic disorder! I am not trying to create a panic but I do think it’s extremely important to be educated and informed. Here are 5 tips on how you can keep your home as healthy as possible that you may or may not have heard before:
1. WASH YOUR HANDS!
Yes, the simplest things sometimes are the most important things. In my home, the main entrance is through the kitchen and as soon as we walk in the door, we wash our hands. No matter where we’ve just come from – the grocery store, a relative’s home, school, work – first we wash our hands. Anybody who comes over, I ask the same from them or offer antiseptic hand sanitizer that I keep right next to the soap. I’ve had a couple people say, “Oh, I washed my hands just before I left my house”. Really? That’s great. And after you washed them you touched your door knobs, car keys, car door & interior, and God knows what else...So yeah, please either wash or disinfect them now that you’ve made through my threshold, thanks!
2. USE YOUR ELBOW!
Well, actually the inside of your elbow a.k.a. the crook of your arm. When you cough or sneeze, covering your mouth and nose with your hand is fine if you’re going to wash it right away but chances are you’re not. What you’re probably going to do is touch your phone, computer mouse, remote, drawer handle, door knob or shake someone’s hand. Then guess what? You’ve passed your germs on to someone else. I’ve never seen anybody open a door or change the channel with the bend in their arm. If you do, please take a picture and share that; I’d love to see it.
3. WIPE! WIPE! WIPE!
There have been studies that show remote controls are the germiest items in hotel rooms. I’m willing to bet your remote controls at home have never been cleaned. Neither have your cell phones, home phones or computer mouse. I take disinfectant wipes (Lysol makes them but there are other no frills brands that have the same properties and work just as well) and clean everything. I just go room to room and wipe down the things that we touch the most throughout the day. The electronic items I mentioned above; light switches; door knobs; cabinet handles; drawer pulls; computer key boards; video game controls. I’ve gotten into such a frenzy that before I realized it, the cats had been sanitized, too. They hated it but they did look pretty funny with their fur all stuck together like that. Ah, good times.
After we found out my son doesn’t have half of his immune system I bought face masks so that if anybody in our immediate family was sick, we could protect him from our germs. We try to stay away from the others for the first couple of days until the antibiotics kick in. And if someone from the outside world is sick, they get locked out! Even the slightest hint of a possible cold is enough to block access to our home. Sorry, we love you, but ya gots to go!
This is controversial. I know there are many people who feel this will only get you sick, whether it be with the flu, Autism or other neurological diseases. Let me just give you the facts, as per the CDC, then you can make up your own mind.
Who should be vaccinated? Everyone, but especially people at high risk like children over 6 months; those with certain medical conditions that make their immune systems weaker like those with asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease; pregnant women; and people over 65. Also, those of us who care for people who fall into this high risk category should be vaccinated.
When should we vaccinate? As soon as the vaccines become available so that a flu epidemic doesn’t have a chance to grow. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in so waiting until the virus is in full effect to get the vaccine is not ideal. You should get it when it becomes available so you’re protected at the right time.
Where do I get the vaccine? If you are being followed by a regular physician then that is where you should go. If you don’t have a doctor you can go to http://flushot.healthmap.org/ to find a location by you. There are also links on the main page to information on the different types of vaccines available.
Make sure that whoever is giving you the vaccine knows your medical history. For instance, the nasal mist vaccine is not safe for the groups I mentioned above. People with immune deficiencies probably wouldn’t be good candidates for any type of vaccine, either. I’m not doctor so please, PLEASE speak to a medical professional about all your medical history before making your final decision. You can find more about the flu and vaccines http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.