Given that a certain blockbuster disease thriller is currently topping the box office charts, we figured some of you might be starting to worry about all the different kinds of nasty bugs that are floating around.
And the end of summer means we’re even closer to the traditional late-autumn start of flu season.
So we couldn’t think of a better time than right now to remind you of a few simple ways to protect you and your kids from one of the most underestimated infections out there.
While there’s no surefire way to keep yourself from getting the flu, these five simple steps will dramatically cut your and your child’s risk of infection:
Vaccinate your kids
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—aka the people in charge of keeping us protected from all of the nasty diseases, viruses, infections, and other illnesses—recommend that every person six months or older gets a flu shot every year.
Kids under six months old are too young for a flu jab, but there’s still something you can do to protect them (more on that in a moment).
According to the CDC, hundreds of millions of these flu vaccines have been given in the U.S. over the past five decades, with a very good safety record. And no, the flu vaccine won’t give you the flu—but there is a small chance that you’ll experience mild side effects, like pain and soreness at the injection site.
It’s particularly important for kids to get the shot, since they’re one of the groups most vulnerable to serious complications from the flu. About 20,000 kids under 5 are hospitalized each year with such complications.
Bottom line: ignore the anti-vaccine crazies out there. The flu shot is safe, widely used, and the #1 thing you can do to protect your kids from this potentially dangerous infection. Find a shot here.
Getting a flu shot is extremely important if you live with someone who can’t receive one themselves—namely, infants under six months old. Even if you think you’re healthy, you can still get the flu, which means you can pass it on to your little ones.
The more people who get the vaccine, the greater the protection for everyone who’s at a higher risk for complications, including the very young, the very old, and those with chronic disease and compromised immune systems.
Teach your kids the right way to wash their hands
Frequent hand-washing can help slow the spread of flu.
Kids should wash their hands with soap and water for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
If soap and water aren’t around, an alcohol-based hand rub works.
Teach your kids the right way to cough
And that would be by sneezing or coughing into the bend of your arm, or a tissue. That’s because it’s a lot harder for the bend of your arm to come into contact with surfaces and spread whatever germs might be floating around in the droplets you just expelled from your body.
Don’t believe us? Just ask Elmo:
Keep your kids from touching their eyes
And their noses.
And their mouths.
This is how germs spread.