They’ll sneak up on you: The sniffles. A sore throat. Chills that come with a fever. Pretty soon your kids will be sick and you’ll be making a late-night run to the drugstore where you’ll buy out half of their chicken-noodle soup, cough medicine, and tissues.
Whether you’re ready or not, cold and flu season is right around the corner. But fortunately, you don’t have to settle for the inevitable. With a small amount of preparation and prevention, you can be ready.
Preventing the Flu
There are no guarantees when it comes to colds and the flu. Even if you get a flu shot, you might end up getting a cold. But there are several things you can do to help prevent cold and flu symptoms from infiltrating your family.
Get a flu shot
Plan ahead and get your flu shot early. Vaccinate all family members over 6 months old. That’s one of the most effective ways to avoid the flu this season.
Wash your hands
Stop the spread of germs by teaching your kids to wash their hands well and often. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds each time you wash. Washing your hands in soap and water will yield the best results, but an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also useful when a sink isn’t available. Clip a small hand sanitizer onto your child’s backpack to use at school. Have more hand sanitizer available to use in the car and at home.
Clearing germs from your hands may not be enough to keep your family from getting sick. Because viral germs can survive outside of the body for several hours, it’s important to keep things around you clean. Use disinfectant spray and wipes to clear germs from your work phone and keyboards. At home, wipe down door knobs, remote controls, light switches, faucet handles, and other areas that get touched frequently.
Stop the spread of germs
Encourage those around you to use a tissue when they sneeze or cough. If a tissue isn’t available, teach your kids to cover their mouth and nose with their elbow. Avoid sharing things like lip gloss, keyboards, and even phones.
Maintaining your regular healthy habits can go a long way in preventing sickness. Get 7-8 hours of sleep regularly. Eat a healthy diet. Exercise regularly. Take time to de-stress, and stay away from people who are sick.
Cold and Flu Supplies
Sometimes, no matter how well you‘ve tried to prevent it, you or a family member will get sick. When sniffles set in, you’ll want to have cold and flu supplies on hand. Stocking up on the following will help you to prepare for flu season and avoid late-night runs to the store.
- Non-prescription medications including fever reducers, pain relievers, cough drops, anti-diarrheal medication, and decongestants.
- Digital thermometer. Remember to wash it in warm soapy water and rinse with cool water before use.
- Low-sodium canned soup.
- Facial tissues. Large boxes work well at home, but pick up a few travel-sized packages for backpacks and work bags.
- Heat and ice packs.
- Decaffeinated tea and electrolyte-replacing drinks such as most sports drinks.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Humidifier. By adding moisture to the air, you can help clear mucous from your sinuses.
- Calm activities to keep your kids entertained while they’re sick (movies, books, or games).
- Doctor’s phone number.
Now’s the time to prepare your family for cold and flu season. Take preventive measures to avoid getting sick, and have the things you need on hand in case you do get sick.
You may also want to consider saving sick days at work so you’re ready to take care of yourself and your kids when sickness sets in. If you can, decide on a few support people from your family and friends who may be available to help you out if you’re stuck at work and need to take a sick child to the doctor.
Thinking about these things now will help you be prepared during the coming cold-weather months.