“The Flu”, or influenza, is hitting the Chicagoland area
hard, and after a couple of mild flu seasons we have all forgotten how ill the flu can make you (and your kids). Below are some tips to help keep you and your family safe:
#5) Avoid crowded, enclosed spaces if possible. Think movie theaters, shopping malls, and even airplanes. All the air gets circulated around and around. Why do you
think schools are hit so hard? Take a walk outside or rent a movie instead.
#4) Stay active and eat well. Fruits and vegetables have anti-oxidants that help fight infection, and studies have shown that regular exercise improves the way your immune system functions. Unfortunately, neither vitamin C nor zinc lozenges have been proven to help prevent getting the flu.
#3) Anti-viral medications. If you have been exposed to the flu by a close contact such as a work or school colleague or family member, medicines such as Tamiflu or Relenza can be used once a day to help prevent influenza. These medicines work by interfering with the way the flu virus replicates in your body. They must be prescribed by your physician and like any medicine, may have some side effects.
#2) Wash your hands. How many times have you heard that? But it works. The same goes for alcohol based hand sanitizers like Purell. These work by drying out the flu viruses and literally cause the virus particles to shatter apart. Overuse will dry out your hands, and these
products should always be monitored by a parent or teacher.
#1) Get a flu-shot! There is no excuse for not getting you or your kids a flu shot. Most people can even opt for a nasal spray version, which is 5 percent more effective!
It is a myth that the vaccine causes the flu, and the more people that get vaccinated, the better the shot works.
This is due to something called herd immunity, which decreases the transmission of a disease through a community if it can’t find enough host bodies to infect.
I am personally amazed that so many people wait so long to get their flu shots, and I am astounded that some parents refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated. Having the flu is a miserable experience. Secondary
infections like bacterial pneumonia happen often. One to two hundred children die from influenza in the United States every year. If a children’s toy caused that many deaths, there would be outrage, a huge recall and lawsuits. You can help to prevent illness, plain and simple. Be smart and protect yourself.
Dr. Riley Minster is a pediatrician at Lake Shore Pediatrics with offices in Barrington, Lake Forest and Libertyville. For more information, please go to www.lakeshorepeds.com.