With the cooler months approaching and flu season knocking at your door there are some easy ways to help your family stay healthy this year.
Did you know the Influenza Virus can survive on a nonporous surface for 24-48 hours and Rhinovirus (the common cold) can survive up to 7 days? Noroviruses (the most common cause of gastroenteritis – hello diarrhoea and vomiting) can survive up to 12 days on surfaces such as carpets according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The most common way for infectious diseases to spread is through direct transfer of bacteria, viruses or other germs from one person to another through touching, kissing, coughing or sneezing on someone who isn’t infected. An infected person touching their nose, mouth or eyes and transferring germs via their hands to other people or surfaces spreads germs. After unknowingly touching an infected surface like a public toilet door, tap or public transport handle, a person can become infected after touching their own nose, mouth or eyes transferring the germs that are on their hands.
So with that in mind what are the best ways to help prevent illness?
1. 80% of common infections are spread by our hands as our hands are the most exposed to germs in the home and also areas shared by other people like at school, shopping centres, offices and on public transport. Good personal hygiene is one of the best ways of preventing illness. Teach your child about the correct way to hand wash and make it a normal habit from a young age. It’s best to wash your hands with soap and running water, rubbing all surfaces of your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. To help your child wash their hands for long enough, the Mayo Clinic suggests encouraging your child to wash their hands for as long as it takes for them to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Rinse your hands well after washing and dry with a clean hand towel or paper towel. The next step however, is probably the most important - use a paper towel or tissue to turn off the tap as the tap is one of the most contaminated surfaces and you don’t want to re-contaminate your hands after washing them.
2. If you don’t have access to soap and water, an alcohol based hand sanitizer is a good alternative, as long as it is more than 60% alcohol and you completely cover your hands until dry. This is an excellent way of preventing the spread of germs when on the go, especially with kids, as high use surfaces in public areas harbor not only the influenza and common cold viruses, but many other germs and viruses including E.coli, salmonella, norovirus, pneumonia and even STI’s (seriously – that’s revolting!)
3. Antibacterial wipes are another good alternative when on the go as you can use them to wipe surfaces like shopping trolleys, menus, tables and highchairs at restaurants and baby change mats. When at home these can also be used to clean surfaces such as your mobile phone, keyboard, I-Pad, telephone and door handles regularly to keep them germ free.
4. Avoid sharing food, cups, cutlery and towels with other people. Be extra cautious when travelling touching surfaces frequently used by other people - for instance hotel room telephones, remote controls, light switches and glasses that may not be cleaned properly or frequently by house cleaning.
5. If you do become infected with the flu or common cold, prevent further exposure to your family and other people by covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, dispose of used tissues immediately, stay at home, drink lots of water and eat lots of fresh healthy food and wash your hands regularly.
6. Finally, the best way to help your family stay healthy this flu season is to boost your family’s immune system and keep it strong by encouraging good sleeping habits, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, getting outside in the fresh air and reducing exposure to everyday stress.
I am a big believer in vitamins when required and probiotics, however every family is different and this should be based on an individuals need. Having had several members of our family suffer from a terrible influenza several years ago, which our son brought home from his school camp (which infected 70% off his class) we have since started having an annual flu vaccination. Having witnessed first hand how terrible the flu was we decided this was something we would do every year since and thankfully we have stayed healthy and will continue to be vigilant about getting vaccinated. We usually wait until about June to get this done as the influenza vaccination wears off after 3-4 months and we find that this covers us in the peak flu season.
Do you have any other strategies or suggestions for helping to keep your family healthy this flu season? Perhaps you use essential oils or have another fantastic suggestion? Do you have a delicious recipe to help fight the first signs of a cold and boost your immune system?
We would love to hear from you if you do.
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Do you have travel plans these holidays? Plan ahead and be prepared so that your holiday is stress free, healthy and super organised so you can enjoy your long anticipated trip.
We all know how easy it is to get sick when travelling. Public transport is riddled with lots of germs and viruses due to the high use of surfaces and limited hygiene opportunities for travellers. Surfaces used frequently by the public like seat belts, toilets, buttons and touch screens provide an easy opportunity for germs to be transferred. The last thing you want when trying to enjoy your trip is a family gastro outbreak or the flu.