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To protect your family from the flu, the first step is to make sure all family members over six months of age get an annual influenza vaccine. This vaccine guards against viruses that cause the flu. Encouraging all members of your family to adopt some healthy habits can protect against the flu, too. Pass along these rules for fighting the flu:
- Wash your hands often using soap and water.
- When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth or nose with a tissue. Throw out the tissue immediately.
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose as much as possible.
- If a family member gets the flu, try to avoid contact with him or her.
- If you get the flu, avoid contact with others as much as possible.
The easiest way to protect your family from the flu is to get a flu shot. The flu shot is about 60% effective against most strains of the flu, and doctors highly recommend that most people get one. The flu season is November through March.
Flu shots can begin in children ages 6 months and up, and FluMist can be used in patients between 2 and 49 years of age. Flu shots are also safe during pregnancy. The vaccine takes 10 to 14 days to become effective, so if you get the flu 3 days after your shot, you were exposed to the flu before the vaccine was effective.
Smart health habits can go a long way in preventing the spread of respiratory illnesses like the flu. Protect yourself and your children from getting sick by practicing these healthy habits:
- Wash your hands frequently. Ordinary soap is sufficient. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, or cover your mouth and nose with your upper sleeve, not your hand.
- Throw used tissues in the trash.
- Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs often spread when you touch something that is contaminated with germs and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Remind your kids not to share cups, eating utensils, and school supplies such as pens and pencils.
- Stay home if you or your children are sick to avoid spreading the virus to others. Additionally, staying home and getting adequate rest will help you get back on your feet faster.
- Avoid close contact with sick people when possible. If your child attends daycare or school, make sure children and the school's staff are encouraged to stay home when they are sick. If your child's play date is sick, reschedule. It's better to be safe than sorry.
The best way to protect your family from the flu is to vaccinate. The flu vaccine is recommended yearly for everyone 6 months and older. It can be given as a shot or as a nasal spray, which is currently approved for children older than 2 years. And no, you can’t catch the flu from the vaccine.
If you think anyone in your family has the flu, see your physician as soon as possible. In some cases your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to help reduce the severity of flu symptoms and decrease the chance that the rest of your family catches the virus.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.