Happy flu season, y’all! It’s going around strong right now. In fact, the CDC recently declared that the only US state that wasn’t in full-out outbreak mode is Hawaii. That island is sounding a little bit more like paradise, isn’t it? So whether you’re trying to avoid getting sick, actively sick with influenza, or helping your family with all of the above, let’s chat about 7 ways moms can prevent and treat the flu, with anecdotal information from my experience as an Registered Nurse.
Because after 8 years in a pediatric emergency department, I’ve seen a ton. Remember the big swine flu scare? Working in an emergency room you never knew what was coming through the front doors. So we had to be prepared for anything and everything. And, as always, this isn’t medical advice because I’m not your doctor.
Anyway, let’s get back to the flu, though, shall we?
To prevent and treat the flu, you need to know which germ you’re fighting.
Because when I say “flu”, I mean “influenza”. Those nasty stomach bugs that go around school are still awful, but those aren’t technically the flu (it’s usually a nasty bug like norovirus).
Why start here? Well, because different bugs have different treatments. If you’ve got a cold virus, there’s not a lot to be done for you beyond symptom management. However, if you’ve got a bacterial infection, then you may need antibiotics.
The flu, however, is kind of its own thing. Because while the official treatments for it are symptom management, there is also a now-more-commonly-prescribed antiviral (usually called tamiflu) that’s being prescribed by doctors. Because the flu is a virus, antibiotics don’t help – at least not unless you get even more sick and happen to develop a secondary infection that’s bacterial. Like pneumonia. And nobody wants that!
So the first thing you can do to help prevent and treat the flu is to make sure you’re seeing your doctor regularly. And, if you suspect the flu, get seen sooner rather than later. Because tamiflu works best when prescribed and taken fast.
Know your foe: the flu and all of its symptoms!
See your doctor earlier for faster treatment and recovery
Prevent the flu at all costs by quarantining, quarantining, and being germ smart!
Now, if you’re one of the lucky ones who’s avoided being sick thus far, good for you! Keep up the good work. Avoid sick people like the flu-plague they carry. And if that means you have to quarantine at home (and you can quarantine at home), do it.
On the flip side, if you’re one of the sick ones, please stay home! I know that with school and work commitments, it’s hard to contain the germs. But if you can, please do so! It’ll make a world of difference for everyone else.
In the event that you can’t stay home every winter from December through April, then be germ smart.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Don’t touch stuff then touch your face – you’re gonna get infected, yo.
Sneeze into your elbow. Nobody shakes elbows or randomly touches stuff with an elbow, so you’ll spread fewer germs that way.
Now, whether you’re sick or not, remember to take care of yourself, too. In my house, I’ve got to make sure I’m at least functional, even when sick. Perhaps it’s because I’m the nurse, so my kids want me to take care of them. Nah. They just want me because I’m their mama. And that’s okay, too. One way I take care of myself is by eating well – and flu season is a great time for easy-to-make meals, like pumpkin curry soup.
3. If you’re sick, avoid healthy people. If you’re healthy, avoid sick people.
4. Take care of yourself so you stay healthy – or get better faster.
5. Be germ smart – wash your hands and watch those sneezes.
Clean and disinfect everything the right way.
All right, so you’re being germ smart and you’re avoiding sick people. That’s fantastic, but it’s still not enough. Why? Because unfortunately those pesky flu germs can survive for 24-48 hours on hard, nonporous surfaces like countertops. Ewwww.
Thankfully, they don’t last as long on some other surfaces. But rather than trying to memorize how long each germ lasts on each surface type, instead remember this: they can survive outside of your body for a while unless you kill them.
And how do you kill them? Well, there’s different cleaners for different germs. It’s that whole “know your enemy” thing again… thankfully, Lysol wipes or properly-diluted bleach are great at taking care of flu germs. In fact, it’s probably very prominently displayed across the outside of the wipe container, right?
There you go. Just make sure you’re cleaning according to the directions. Or, if you’re using diluted bleach, make sure you follow the recommendations on the bottle. If you don’t… well, bleach that’s not diluted properly doesn’t do much except make things smell clean.
And one final lesson from the emergency room… when all else fails? Wear your PPE (personal protective equipment). In other words, don’t feel bad rocking a mask. Against the flu, they’re pretty awesome.
6. Use Lysol wipes or other flu-killing disinfectants to stop the spread of germs – especially between family members!
7. Whether or not you get the flu shot each year, it’s totally cool to wear a mask all flu season.