Our closed up homes during the chilly flu season makes them virtual incubators of germs and viruses.
Where else can they go? They don't have any other exit route.
And all the warm bodies - us! - inside provide a perfect growing ground on which cold and flu germs and viruses can gain a toehold.
You can get the virus when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. (Ick.)
You can also pick up the germs by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose.
While we can't do much about the cooler temperatures outside or the germs floating around inside buildings and our homes, we can practice simple prevention measures to keep our families healthy.
This season, the most common viruses are influenza A (H1N1 - also known as the swine flu), influenza A (H3N2), and influenza B viruses.
Although we're in the thick of influenza season, it's not to late to get the vaccine - even if you've already had one strain of the virus.
Although the flu season usually peaks in February, it can occur as late a May. Those at most risk for complications from the virus such as bacterial pneumonia, ear or sinus infections and dehydration include seniors over the age of 64, children 2 years old or younger, and those with chronic health conditions.
Here are 10 ways to keep the virus away and your family healthy.
Talk about under-rated! Hand-washing is the single most effective means we have for preventing the spread of viruses and germs.
Make washing hands a frequent part of your children's day. (Tell them they can finally play in water.)
Remind them that for hand hygiene to be effective, they
must rub vigorously for at least 30 seconds to kill germs, about as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.
Carry a hand sanitizer for those times when you don't have access to water.
When you have flu symptoms - such as a cough - cover it with a tissue. When you're without one, an elbow will do. Then throw the tissue away. (Keep the elbow.)
This is especially important if you have a baby at home, or someone with a weak immune system.
In short: Don't go there. Flu shots are easily obtained at pharmacies and grocery stores. Save yourself the headache (and worse) and be proactive now. It's not too late.
Do separate loads for family members with viral symptoms to ensure no transmission of germs happens in the laundry room.
And be sure to keep dirty laundry as far from your mouth, nose, and eyes as possible.
When drying, choose the machine's hottest
setting. It's the best way to kill germs.
The worst germ-breeding object in your house is the kitchen sponge or dishrag. The moistness in sponges creates an ideal growing environment for these nasty little creatures.
Remember this as you're bringing in soup bowls and water glasses from your family patient to ensure there's no cross-transmission here. The contagious period runs from a day before symptoms appear to up to 5 to 7 days after. Be vigilant here.
Remember to use a disinfectant on sponges regularly - or just pop them in the dishwasher next time you run it.
Cold germs and the flu virus are around all the time. So why aren’t we sick all the time?
Healthy, well-nourished, well-rested people can fend off most germs and viruses. And if you do get sick, good health usually helps you recover faster.
Make sure your family gets at least eight hours of sleep a night, eats healthy meals (lots of fruit and vegetables) and exercises daily.
If you or your child is running a temperature, another one of the virus symptoms, stay home. Do not go out
and infect others. That's how an epidemic starts.
If you get sick, start an antiviral prescription medication right away. Taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms, they can lessen the
severity of your symptoms. They can also prevent serious virus-related complications, like pneumonia.
If you're not better after several days, call your doctor. It's time to replace doctor Mom with a doctor of the licensed sort.
About the Author
Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.