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So, the kids have made it this far in elementary school without a touch of lice or an absence to their name? Score! For many moms, however, the big worries start to set in as the temperature outside drops and cold and flu season begins. If that sounds like you, don’t miss these important cold and flu season reminders:
Knowing the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu
To be honest, it’s key to recognize the difference between seasonal allergies, the cold, and the flu to really put your best foot forward this season. While the symptoms of all three can seem similar and generally reflect the immune system’s attempt at warding off unwanted germs, with allergies it’s simple germs and allergens like pollen and dust that cue a histamine response. Allergies will never cause a fever and often are accompanied by itchiness (of the eyes, ear, throat, etc.) in addition to a runny or stuffy nose. They sometimes can cause suspicious white bumps in the back of the throat, too. If symptoms persist more than a couple days, it’s worth a trip to the doctor to check.
Colds and the flu on the other hand are actual viruses which stimulate an immune response wherein the body “mans the defenses” to start fighting back and prevent the virus from replicating and spreading. This results in more severe symptoms like fever, achy joints and muscles, chills, runny or stuffy nose, cough, etc. If one of your child’s classmates is out with a cold or if symptoms have persisted for over a week, chances are good your child’s condition is symptomatic of a virus. Get to the doctor right away to start on a treatment plan that helps your child recover quicker.
Flu season begins in late October and lasts all the way to May, peaking in the months between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Helpful Apps to Track Flu Outbreaks & Get Help
Parents no longer need to be in the dark about flu outbreaks in their area. Helpful apps and tech tools are aggregating important outbreak data for communities across the nation as well as connecting patients with doctors online. Apps include:
FluView – nationwide influenza surveillance powered by the CDC lets anyone access an interactive map that traces flu outbreaks and the viral strains dominating the season. With information about the severity and dissemination of outbreaks, as well as a search tool to help you find where to get vaccines in your area, FluView is a must for moms everywhere.
SickWeather – crowd-sourcing outbreaks is the name of the game with SickWeather, an app for iOS or Android. By scanning social media networks, SickWeather tracks indicators of illness, like mentions of cold and flu outbreaks, i.e. when someone posts on Facebook that they’re working from home while their child is out sick from school. You can even get alerts when you are potentially entering a “Sick Zone.”
TeleMedicine – Did you know you could live video chat with a doctor right from the comfort of your own home for a virtual medical examination? Telemed services like Doctor on Demand and HealthTap are exploding in the healthcare industry, providing patients with quick and easy access to certified medical professionals who can make diagnoses and prescribe medicine – great when your family doctor is booked solid and you have a sick kid on your hands!
Teach Your Kids These Helpful Tips
Cold and flu prevention relies on your kids just as much as it does you. Don’t forget to cover these crucial reminders with your family before cold and flu season starts:
Sing Happy Birthday – when washing hands, use soap and warm water, and scrub for roughly 20 seconds, or the time it takes your kids to sing the birthday song. When in doubt, wash your hands – before you eat, after you sneeze or throw away a tissue, etc.
Don’t Share Cups – instill a healthy habit of not sharing cups, even with siblings, and especially with friends at school. Airborne viruses thrive on the surfaces where people place their mouths and are so easily transferred into the body accordingly. Sticking with your own cup (and straw) sets you up for avoiding major germs.
Practice Proper Cough Etiquette – cough into your elbow, sneeze into a tissue, easy enough to remember right? Turns out kids need LOTS of practice when it comes to proper cough and sneeze etiquette, so start now and ensure that they won’t become germ spreaders later.
Exercise – want to fortify the immune system so it is strong and able to fend off viral and bacterial infections? While good nutrition is so important, exercise plays just as much of a role! Not only does exercise help kids workout and strengthen respiratory, heart, and skeletal muscles, but it reinforces their immune system and wears them out for a good night’s sleep. Moms, get your own exercise in, even when you’re working or helping kids with homework with a mini pedal exerciser that sits under your desk – view more here.
Keep Up With Sleep – did you know the hours in which you sleep provide a critical window of time in which the body goes about repairing itself? Not getting enough sleep might increase your chances (or your child’s) of getting sick. Regular, quality sleep is critical for your children, so make sure to keep up with bedtimes and address those things which might keep kids up like digital devices, stuffy noses, etc. If kids in your child’s class are out sick, you might consider an even earlier bedtime for your own child.
Disinfect – Sanitizing your home is easy when you have the right items on hand. Keep hand sanitizer available and disinfect commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, refrigerator handles, faucets, and countertops with wipes and spray that are proven to kill bacteria and viruses. Make sure tissues are accessible in most rooms, and consider using disposable hand towels, in the bathroom for example, to avoid collecting germs on a place multiple people touch each day.
Moms, in all the chaos of school drop-off, class parties, soccer games, laundry, and scrambling to prevent cold and flu viruses from striking your household, don’t let yourself get run down. Lack of sleep, poor eating habits, stress . . . all of these factors can weaken your immune system leaving you more susceptible to picking up germs that make you sick. Being sidelined with the flu is hard on you and your family, so make sure to take care of yourself.
As for vaccines, the CDC recommends getting the flu shot before an outbreak hits your community, as it actually takes 2 weeks for antibodies to build up in your own system to effectively prevent you from catching the flu. This flu season, the nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended, and vaccines have been updated to better match circulating strains. A recent study in Pediatrics revealed an association between getting the flu vaccine and lowered risk of death in children and adolescents.
The good news out of cold and flu season is that there are lots of steps families can take to lower their risk of contracting the flu. Moms, stress less when you equip your family with helpful tips, reminders, and apps to stay ahead of cold and flu season this year!
Keep your skin healthy in the winter too with tips from “How to Beat Winter Weather Skin.”
Photo Credits: Pixabay