Samples provided. This article is not intended as medical advice; always consult with your doctor.
The flu season has been hitting MomStart HQ pretty hard the last few weeks: I got sick during the Chicago Auto Show and gave the bug to Jai when he met me at the airport on Valentine’s Day – what a romantic gift, right? Just a few days later, Louise’s whole family came down with it. In other words, we’re all sickos!
Although there are times when we all fall sick, there are still steps you can take to minimize your chances of catching a bug. The flu season can sometimes last into May, so it’s important to keep healthy habits year-round. Lysol arranged for me to speak with Kate Awsumb, MPH, MA from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about three things that families can do to reduce their chances of getting sick this flu season:
1. Wash your hands!
“Do whatever it takes to get your kids to wash your hands – I think that’s really key in a school environment where kids are touching everything, touching each other, and touching you when they get home!” said Ms. Awsumb. Some of the tips she offers parents for getting kids excited about hand washing are things like getting a cute little step stool for younger kids so that they can easily reach the sink without standing on their tiptoes, and picking out fun, colorful soaps for your kids. Lysol Touch of Foam: Foaming Hand Soap is easy to use because it expands into a foam lather as you dispense it, and smells good – I like the Rose & Cherry in Bloom, myself!
Teach your children to wash their hands before they eat, if they cough or sneeze into their hands, and of course after using the bathroom. Ms. Awsumb encourages parents and kids to wash their hands together as a family – get everyone to wash their hands for 20 seconds before dinner, and try even singing a fun song together while you do it! I also like to use Lysol Disinfecting Wipes to clean my kitchen counters after meal prep.
And while hand sanitizer is a great option for those times when a sink isn’t available – say, while traveling – don’t rely on it as a total substitute for hand washing.
“Hand sanitizer is a really good option for the times when you don’t have soap and water, but sometimes people want to use it as a substitute. Soap and water is really the best thing you can do – soap and water kills the vast majority of germs when you’re washing your hands for about 20 seconds.” She was quick to note that hand sanitizer does not kill all types of germs, so while it is better than nothing, it’s not a replacement for good old soap and water.
Another thing you can take on the road with you is Lysol Disinfectant Spray To Go. This is the baby version of the same sanitizing spray that I see in almost every cupboard, and is perfect for keeping in your purse or car for those icky moments on the road.
2. Get a flu shot.
Ms. Awsumb also discussed the importance of getting your flu shot. “Talk to your doctor about the best type for you, whether it’s the shot, whether it’s the mist – that’s the best, best thing you can do is make sure that you get one every year, you get it at the appropriate time in the season before it’s too late, and that it’s something consistent that you’re doing every year. That’s your best shot – no pun intended!”
3. Be aware of “Surprise” breeding grounds for germs.
Going to a public pool with the family is a great way to get some fun exercise in, but be aware of the germ factor. People think that chlorine in the pool kills everything, but it doesn’t kill all the germs and it doesn’t kill them right away. “Even in a properly treated swimming pool, there are germs that can live in it for a week or more,” Ms. Awsumb said. “A lot of people believe that if a pool smells like chemicals, that means it’s clean, that means that there aren’t germs in it, that means, ‘Oh, that’s the chlorine, it’s doing its job’. Actually, a healthy pool should not smell at all. And generally, the stronger a pool smells, the more stuff is being brought into the pool that the chlorine is [actively fighting]. So it’s actually the opposite for what you think when you go in and you take a big wiff and you say, ‘It smells clean! I’m good to go!’”
Smart strategies include teaching your kids to avoid getting the water in their mouths, and make sure everyone showers before getting into the pool to make it more sanitary for everyone.
For more information on influenza and its prevention, visit CDC.gov/Flu and speak with your doctor.