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Learn How to Flu Proof Your Home

Medical Minute - Learn How to Flu Proof Your Home

It happens all the time: One family member gets the flu, and before you know it, everyone else has it too. Flu germs can spread even before symptoms appear, and you can infect others up to a week after you first become sick. By practicing a few simple rules at home, you can help keep your family healthy and prevent the flu from spreading.

Get vaccinated
Health experts say getting vaccinated is the single most important thing you can do to prevent the flu.

Cover coughs and sneezes
Flu germs are believed to spread through droplets from the mouth and nose. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Make sure to throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands right away. If there's no tissue handy, cough or sneeze into the bend of your elbow.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
According to the CDC, flu germs can live for two to eight hours on hard surfaces. That's why it's so easy to pick up flu germs without knowing it. You can get infected if you touch a germ covered doorknob or light switch and then rub your eyes or bite your nails. Learning to keep your hands away from your face can be tough, especially for children so remind them often.

Wash your hands often
A quick rinse won't so. For it to be effective, make sure you and your family follow these steps:
• Run warm water over your hands.
• Add soap.
• Scrub for at least 20 seconds.
• Rinse and dry.

You can stock up on alcohol-based hand sanitizers for areas where sinks aren't available or when you're out and about. Make sure your hand sanitizers are at least 60 percent alcohol, and remember that they're not a replacement for washing your hands with soap and warm water - they don't tackle all germs, and don't work on visibly dirty hands.

Remind kids to wash up:
• each time they use the bathroom
• before they eat
• after they come in from outside

It can also help to set up a hand sanitizer station by your door, as a first line of defense against outside germs.

Limit contact with family members who are ill
If someone in your family does get the flu, take these steps to prevent the flu from spreading:
• Keep the sick person at home.
• Limit close contact between the sick person and other family members as much as you can while they're contagious. In general, this is up to a week after they show symptoms.
• Change sleeping arrangements, if possible.

You should also avoid sharing the following items from the sick person:
• washcloths
• towels
• dishes
• toys / electronics
• utensils / cups

Clean your home
Flu germs and viruses love to lurk on items you touch every day. Here are some hot spots for germs:
• door handles
• sink faucets
• countertops
• toilets
• electronics
• TV remote
Clean and disinfect these hot spots regularly.

Practice healthy habits
Don't forget the power of a healthy lifestyle to fight off sickness. The following tips can go far in keeping your immune system healthy and your family well this flu season.
• Get plenty of sleep.
• Eat lots of vegetables and fruits.
• Drink lots of fluids.
• Exercise regularly.
• Manage your stress.

If someone in your household does get the flu, keep the person at home, disinfect and clean your home well, and limit close contact with that person whenever possible.