by Elizabeth Easton, Target Pharmacist
Q: How can parents and care-takers keep their families healthy this cold and flu season?
There is no surefire way to completely prevent cold and flu viruses. However, there are a few steps you can take to keep yourself and your family safe and healthy during the cold and flu season, including:
· Get immunized. Flu shots can benefit everyone, but are especially important for pregnant women, caregivers of newborn babies and those with compromised immune systems.
· Disinfect your home. Keep the common areas of your house clean and germ-free by cleaning frequently. Choose a gentle, yet effective cleaning solution that’s nontoxic and safe for pets and young children. Vinegar is an excellent disinfectant and multipurpose household-cleaning product.
· Think outside the orange. Snack on plenty of fruits (cherries, pineapples, and strawberries) and veggies (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green peppers) that are filled with immunity-building vitamin C and other essential vitamins and minerals.
· Make a good night’s sleep a top priority. According to the CDC, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night; teens, at least 8.5–9.5 hours; five to twelve year-olds require between 9 and 11 hours; and children five and under, need 11-13 hours or more.
· Get up and go. During moderate exercise, immune cells circulate more quickly through the body and increase their ability to kill bacteria and viruses. Exercising on a daily basis also builds your immunity over time.
Q: Beyond getting a flu shot, what are a few ways that families prevent spreading illness?
· Get vaccinated. Protect you and your family and get vaccinated. Prevention is the key to staying healthy during cold and flu season.
· Keep germs at home. While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. This may mean missing a holiday party or dinner to keep from spreading the illness. The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
· Think twice before you share. Avoid sharing food, drinks, utensils or chapstick with loved ones during cold and flu season. Germs can easily carry from one person to the other. Even if you feel well, flu symptoms can take one to three days to appear following exposure—you may be spreading illness and not even know it!
· Clean up after playtime. Avoid spreading the germs your kids may have picked up while sharing toys by washing their hands immediately following playtime. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, like Target’s up & up hand sanitizer with aloe.
· Cover up your cough. Teach your kids to cough or sneeze into the crux of their arm, sleeve or inside of their jacket or sweater. This will help to prevent the spread of viruses to loved ones nearby.
Q: Top five tips to help pregnant women prevent and fight the flu this season include:
1. Get vaccinated. Studies show that viral illnesses like the flu and colds tend to last up to three times longer in pregnant women. An influenza vaccine will protect pregnant women and their unborn babies. Additionally, the vaccine will protect the baby after birth. Target also offers a preservative-free flu shot for pregnant moms. The nasal spray vaccine is not recommended for use in pregnant women.
2. Keep the air moist. If you’ve caught the flu bug, a cool mist humidifier in your room can help to provide extra moisture to help reduce congestion. Choose a cool mist humidifier over a warm one to minimize bacterial overgrowth and eliminate the risk for burns.
3. Clear up with a neti pot. Neti pots are a natural remedy to help clear nasal passages by thinning and loosening mucus. They can also help to rinse away germs before they turn into a cold, the flu or other illnesses.
4. Stay hydrated. Hydration is an important step in both the prevention and treatment of the flu. Dehydration can leave your body more susceptible to colds and the flu. If you are already sick, drinking plenty of fluids will help to flush and thin nasal secretions.
5. Humidity helps fight the flu. Keep some humidity in your home to prevent dry nasal passages and mouth linings that can make you more susceptible to infections.
What are a few cold and flu essentials listeners should stock up on this season?
· Vicks Vapor Rub. The cooling sensation from vapor rubs may help kids sleep better at night.
· A neti pot. Neti pots help to keep the nasal passages clear by thinning and loosening mucus. They can also help to rinse away germs before they turn into a cold, the flu or other illnesses.
· Children’s Tylenol Meltaways. When it comes to reducing fevers, aches and pains associated with the flu, this is a great option for kids. No spoon or water is needed, making it a great option for families on the go.
· Mucinex. An expectorant like Mucinex will help loosen phlegm, making it easier to have a productive cough or clear your nose while you are sick.
· Antibacterial spray or wipes. Cleanliness is a great line of defense against infection, so keep your phone, doorknobs and countertops germ-free by cleaning frequently with a product like Lysol antibacterial spray or wipes.
· up & up hand sanitizer with aloe. One of the most important measures to prevent a cold is keeping germs off your hands. When soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Look for a sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content.
· Cough drops. Stock up on cough drops to help calm coughs and soothe sore throats associated with a cold or the flu.