Hugs not Kisses

Tips to beat seasonal bugs.
By: Barb Duncan

‘Tis the season for runny noses, plugged noses, snotty noses, croupy coughs, head and muscle aches, sore throats, feverish kids and phone calls to say, “Mrs. (or Mr.) Parent, will you please come and pick up Johnnie? He’s sick.” That’s not fun for anybody. While the odd cold is practically inevitable between now and spring, particularly in a busy household with kids in school, you don’t want your family down for the count with something worse. Preventative measures can make a real difference.

Leslie Sharkey is a public health nurse with Outbreak Management and Infection Control at Ottawa Public Health and she offers some timely answers to questions commonly asked on the brink of winter.

What’s the most important advice for keeping families healthy (and relatively virus free) this winter?

• Get the flu vaccine.
• Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cough into a tissue or your sleeve, not your hand. Afterwards, dispose of the tissue and wash your hands.
• Eat healthy foods, exercise and get enough sleep.
• Don’t share eating utensils or the same glass or straw.
• Don’t share water bottles.

When Johnnie brings home a virus from kindergarten, how do you avoid it going through the whole household?

• Wash your hands.
• Don’t share eating utensils or the same glass.
• Don’t share water bottles.
• Give hugs not kisses
• Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces (doorknobs, keyboards, cell phones, phones, kitchen counters, fridge handles and bathrooms).
• You can use a solution of bleach —5 mls (1 tsp) of bleach in 2.5 litres (10 cups) water — to disinfect. Leave for 10 minutes, then wipe dry.
• If there is vomiting and or diarrhea, clean visibly soiled surfaces first, then disinfect using a solution of bleach with 50 mls (1/4 cup) of bleach in 450 mls (2 ¼ cups) of water. Again leave for 10 minutes, then wipe dry.

When is it okay to send him back to school?

• If he has respiratory symptoms, he can return to school when he is fever free and feeling better.
• If the symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea, he needs to stay home until he has been symptom-free for 24 hours (unless otherwise directed).

Is there a point at which it’s too late to get a flu shot?

• You can still receive the flu vaccine as late as March for the current flu season.
“That’s our number one recommendation,” Leslie says. “Get the flu vaccine.” If you’ve got little kids in the family, it’s particularly important, she adds, “because they are such wonderful little germ spreaders.”

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