Health officials are warning Americans about the widespread influenza outbreaks that are raging in 47 of the 50 states.
One of the hardest hit groups has been children and the American Red Cross has some tips for parents to teach their kids to help avoid the flu.
One of the best ways to avoid getting sick is hand washing. Teach children to sing a short song such as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" or "Happy Birthday" so they know how long to wash their hands. They should make sure to use warm water, get all parts of the hand and dry thoroughly with a disposable towel, which they should also use to turn off the faucet.
When children are unable to wash their hands, using an alcohol-based sanitizer is a good substitute. Teach children to rub the product all over their hands and to continue rubbing until the product dries, no drying hands on pants and shirts.
For more tips on hand-washing, go to ScrubClub.org.
It is also important for parents to teach their children to cough or sneeze into a tissue, or when a tissue is not available, their upper arm or elbow.
One of the things kids have the most issues with is keeping their hands and other objects away from their mouth. So parents should make sure to keep an eye out for this and constantly remind the child to stop.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that parents also get their children six months of age or older a flu vaccine.
Other important safety steps include
- Keep surfaces like bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys for children clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant.
- If someone in the household is sick, try to keep the sick person in a separate room from others in the household, if possible.
If the child does become ill despite these precautions, parents should consult their doctor. They should also make sure their child gets plenty of rest and fluids. If the child is breathing fast or having trouble breathing, has bluish or gray skin color, refuses to drink, is vomiting, is irritable or has trouble staying awake, parents should get the child medical help right away.
It is also important that any sick children stay home from school or day care until at least 24 hours after their fever is gone.
You can find more information about how to help keep you and your loved ones protected by visiting redcross.org/FluTips.