How Many Germs Are Hiding in Your Kid’s Box of Toys?
Health and Nutrition Martie Moore, the chief nursing officer at Curad, answers pressing questions on the tip of any concerned parent — or grandparent’s — tongue regarding this year’s flu, risk levels and prevention.
If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, what are some ways in which you can prevent the spread of the virus from infecting friends and family members?
As children, we’re taught to share with others. This is one time where not sharing is truly caring about those around you. I like to hold the belief system of “guilty until proven virus-free.” Simply put, if you start to feel like you are getting sick, isolate yourself or protect others by not spreading the disease.
Wearing the antiviral facemask when around family or in public is one way to do this. Limiting your time in public places and covering your cough are critical. Being aware of your physical environments and washing hands frequently can also help drive greater prevention. Remember, viruses can live for long periods of time on everyday objects like tables. Children's toys are another breeding ground within the household setting. It’s also easy to overlook countertops in the bathroom and kitchen.
These can be prime locations where people stand over them coughing and sneezing and do not think about how much virus they have now deposited for the next person to pick up and transfer to themselves. Some common sense and change of behavior can go a long way to helping you and your loved ones stay healthier this season.
What are the three most important ways to prevent the flu?
Martie Moore: The best way to protect yourself during cold and flu season is to assess your risks and develop a line of defense that is specifically geared toward your lifestyle and daily activities. First and foremost, get a flu shot. According to the CDC, only 47 percent of Americans six months and older actually follow through and receive the flu vaccine.
“Limiting your time in public places and covering your cough are critical.”
Interestingly, within that percentage, the largest cohort to engage and actively seek out the vaccination is in the age group of 65 or older. There is a large percentage of Americans who either see themselves as "healthy enough to avoid the flu" or think they will not get that ill if they do contract it. That is a myth that needs to be busted. Many will get sick, miss work and, in some cases, get hospitalized. The flu can be a deadly killer and is not something to take lightly. If you do not get a flu shot, you must be vigilant about keeping yourself healthy.
Hand hygiene becomes one of your greatest strategies to prevent the introduction of virus to your system. Remember what I like to call: “The No Zone.” This means no touch of your mouth, nose and eyes. Take a tip from other countries and use a mask when traveling or in public places. In Japan for instance, it is more common than uncommon to see people wearing masks. I wore the CURAD antiviral facemask throughout a recent trip there and returned healthy and ready for the next adventure. This particular mask is the only one of its kind to actually inactivate flu viruses on five minutes of contact. This helps protect the wearer against flu viruses. Traditional facemasks act only as a simple barrier or filter and do nothing to neutralize the harmful germs that remain active on the mask itself. Sadly, I didn’t wear it on a domestic flight when multiple people coughed around me, and felt miserable.
You also need to be disciplined about taking care of yourself. Sleep, healthy eating and exercise do help your immune system to be responsive to fighting off potential infections. It’s also good practice to develop alternative plans to help minimize exposure to large groups of people. Shop off hours, avoid large dinner crowds and always think about what you have touched and what might be on your hands or gloves. Consider washing gloves frequently to minimize possible exposure.
What are some steps we can take to ease flu symptoms once they develop?
Most people can manage their symptoms in a home setting. Dehydration and fever management are two top priorities. Assuring that adequate fluid intake occurs is a must. Chicken soup really is good for you and feels great on the throat. Write down when you filled your cup and then make a check with every sip. You should be sipping every few minutes to keep yourself hydrated.
“It’s also good practice to develop alternative plans to help minimize exposure to large groups of people. Shop off hours, avoid large dinner crowds and always think about what you have touched...”
By doing a system of check-offs it helps to remind yourself to "sip for the sick." Cough management can be managed by over-the-counter medications most of the time, but anytime you feel your coughing, fever or weakness is getting worse, be sure to call your care provider.
When should people consider getting their flu shot?
If there’s one thing we know about the flu, it’s that it’s unpredictable. While the CDC says the flu season can run from October through May, experts there recommend getting the flu shot soon after vaccine becomes available. Don’t forget though, it can take a few weeks for the body to respond to the vaccination and boost your capabilities to fight off the flu.Two common myths commonly circulated about the shot suggest the following: you will not get the flu if you receive the vaccination, and the vaccination gives you the flu. Both are not true and have been proven through research. Most likely if someone does become sick close to the time of the flu shot they were already infected. Additionally, even with the vaccination, you can contract the flu. But the vaccination can help lessen the severity of symptoms. Given that influenza kills and causes hospitalization every year, I always recommend getting the flu vaccination.