Prevent the Spread of Flu and Other Illness
After the terrible flu season we experienced in Arkansas and across the nation last year, parents and other caregivers are braced for the upcoming season. For parents, preventing the spread of flu and other illness will protect you from missed work, your children from missed school and activities, and limit the spread in your community.
Vaccinate against flu: If you have a healthy immune system, get a flu shot! Children, elderly individuals, and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to complications with flu, so getting a flu shot is even more important for those groups. Go to your local health unit, family doctor, a local pharmacy, or a flu clinic to get yourself and your family vaccinated. While the flu vaccine is not 100% effective, it reduces severity and length of illness for people who end up getting the flu anyway, and it does NOT cause flu. Especially for younger babies who are not fully immunized or for children or adults who cannot be immunized due to immune deficiencies or chronic illness, the immunization of those around them protects them too! If you have concerns, speak to a qualified health care professional.
WASH HANDS! Washing hands is one of the best ways to prevent and limit the spread of illness in general, and this includes flu. Sneeze or cough into the elbow, use tissues, dispose of used tissues, and wash hands thoroughly using soap and clean towels. In a pinch, hand sanitizer is a great alternative, but it shouldn’t completely replace washing with soap and water.
Do not send a sick child to school: You may be hesitant to keep your child home if your job is inflexible jobs or you lack alternate care; however, sending a sick child to school risks infecting other children, teachers, and staff and lengthening the time your child is ill by increasing likelihood of repeated exposure. State regulations for child care and schools require that children must be kept home until they are fever free for 24 hours and have not vomited or had diarrhea for 24 hours. Many illnesses are contagious before obvious symptoms begin, so when in doubt, keep them home. Older children and teens can often be left alone with minor illnesses (children for shorter periods than teens) if need be. (For more information about how to decide when to leave kids home alone, see our Family Life Friday "Home Alone" series.)
Stay home from work when ill: Going to work while sick may feel like dedication, but it may end with prolonging your illness and sharing it with your coworkers (and their families). The possibility of losing the hours you need each week to make ends meet may make missing work stressful; however, going to work while feeling sick causes more trouble than it is worth. Especially if you work with customers, in food service, or in child care or another educational setting, going to work ill can be dangerous to all you interact with. If your job requires a doctor’s note and you are unable to (or would prefer not to) visit a doctor, consider contacting your boss to let them know your concerns. If you are not someone who is sick or misses work often, they may be willing to skip the note.
Limit interaction with a sick person, and sanitize surfaces while (and after) someone is sick: If someone in your household has been ill, sanitize surfaces and locations using disinfectant such as Lysol or bleach water. Limit cross contamination or sharing of surfaces with a sick person, sanitize throughout the illness rather than after the person is well to prevent reinfection, and teach children appropriate illness prevention strategies to help keep germs at bay. Surfaces and materials that come in contact with bodily fluids (including sweat) should be cleaned thoroughly (especially surfaces that are touched often like phones, door handles, light switches, sinks, and toilets). Wash sheets and pillows.
Extra precautions can limit the spread of illness and contribute to a healthier home and community.