Influenza causes close to 226,000 hospitalizations in the US each year.

Since flu season can begin in October and last until May, we are never far away from feeling its harsh symptoms. Although many families receive the flu vaccine early in the flu season, there are many other preventative tactics parents can practice as well as teach to their children.

Influenza affects millions of Americans every year because it is so easily transported from person to person through bodily fluids from the nose and mouth. These “respiratory droplets” can live outside of the body for up to 2 hours and are most commonly transferred through coughing, sneezing, and touch. Infected persons are usually contagious 1 day before they show symptoms and 5 days afterward.

Because children have close social contact, less than perfect hygiene, and weaker immune system than adults, they are more susceptible to being infected with the flu.

In order to help prevent the flu from infecting the family, everyone should help in creating a unified front of defense.

1. Wash hands frequently for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Give children alcoholic hand washing gels to take to school (they won’t need a towel to dry their hands).

2. Refrain from touching your face. Germs can enter the body from the eyes, nose, and mouth.

3. Eat right to help support the immune system – more than just spaghetti.

4. Get plenty of sleep. It helps the body recover from the day’s stress and aids the immune system.

5. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and make sure to wash your hands afterward.

Symptoms of the flu are chills, fever, headaches, body aches, a cough without mucous, a sudden onset of symptoms, and a severe lack of energy.

Since influenza is a virus, antibiotics, which fight bacterial infections are ineffective against it. New to the market are prescribed antiviral flu medications which lessen the severity and the length of symptoms.