Respiratory Illness: It’s Time to Play Defense

There’s no denying it, it’s flu season. And RSV season. And cold season. It seems everyone probably knows someone who is sick. It’s that time of year.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back and wait for respiratory illnesses to invade your home. Rather, it’s time to play defense.

Play #1 – Make sure every member of your family, and any caregiver who spends time with your family, receives the seasonal flu vaccine. It is not too late to get one – flu season usually lasts into April.

Play #2 – Wash hands often. Make sure everyone in your house knows how to properly wash their hands and regularly encourage and model good hand washing habits.

Play #3 – Cover your cough or sneeze, and not with your hands! The best way to teach kids to prevent the spread of germs from coughs and sneezes is to have them cough/sneeze into a sleeve either at the elbow or between the elbow and shoulder. You can also teach them to cough into a tissue if one is available, but make sure they know to throw it away.

Play #4 – Stay out of the 3-6 foot zone. Most respiratory germs will travel 3-6 feet with a good cough or sneeze. Even if you’re not in the direct line of fire, you are at risk from all those germs that settle out on surfaces. Washing or sanitizing hands after caring for kids helps protect us. Staying out of the 3-6 foot zone can help too. Not letting siblings sleep together or share pillows (even on the sofa) can help thwart the germs as well.

Play #5 – Regular cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces in your home can help limit the spread of cold and other germs. Door knobs, light switches, tables, high chairs, faucets, stair rails and toilet handles are great places to pick up or share germs.

Play #6 – Stay home if you’re sick. This applies to mom and dad too. It’s hard to resist going on with daily responsibilities when you can push through the discomfort of respiratory illness, but the reality is that you’ll get better faster and you’ll help stop the spread of germs if you just stay home!

The CDC is currently reporting widespread influenza (flu) activity in 40 states. Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky are all included. But the good news is that what we’re seeing in Ohio and here at Cincinnati Children’s is completely typical January influenza activity. There is a lot of it in our community, and flu is serious and should be regarded as such, but at this point, we’re not dealing with anything that is cause for alarm. This simply calls for diligence and prevention as outlined above.

Stay well and stay warm out there!

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Beverly Connelly MD

About the Author: Beverly Connelly

Dr. Connelly is the former director of the Infection Control Program at Cincinnati Children's. She is an expert on proper hand hygiene and limiting the spread of germs.

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