Last year during the devastating and deadly H1N1 Outbreak I wrote a post on staying healthy and fighting flu for the Ontario Ministry and Mom Central Canada. This year, although the flu outbreak has changed and H1N1 seems to no longer be an issue here, we are deep in the throws of cold and flu season and people are calling in sick in droves, while reports of emergency rooms being oversubscribed and overflowing continue to make headlines. The other day Ontario’s Minister of Health Deb Matthews wrote a letter to the editor appealing to people to find alternatives to the emergency room. It needs to be stated that I am not a health care professional, but a Mom and a person, who unfortunately like many of you, gets whatever ailment her kids bring home with them. I get my flu shot most years, because due to a chronic health condition, I get sicker than most people when I get the flu, but I won’t judge you if you choose not to get the flu shot. I believe it should be a matter of choice. In Ontario the immunization is free.
Over the years I have learned a few things about flu and I have a few tips to share:
1. Wash hands more often.
2. Wear masks. (While many Moms know it’s unlikely that children will wear the mask, you can still wear one yourself. )
3. Designate one person as primary caregiver for the ill individual.
4. Sanitize common surfaces often. Telephones and doorknobs needs to be cleaned often, as should bathrooms.
5. Cover your coughs and sneezes (I think most of us are savvy now at coughing into our elbows. It is a good strategy.)
6. Keep on hand supplies for emergency cold and flu outbreaks at your house. Soaps, soups, fluids, hand sanitizers and enough food to manage for a couple of weeks. This limits you needing to go into the stores and pharmacies with cold to spread germs while seeking cold and flu remedies.
7. Be informed. The Public Health Agency of Canada web site is useful as well. Click http://www.publichealth.gc.ca/. Also the Ontario Ministry of Health and Longterm Care has some information available too. http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/publichealth/flu/ If you are sick and you need help the Ontario Ministry of Health would prefer that you Google Health Care Options to find out when and where to go for help in your geographical area.
8. Keep sick person’s stuff away from others, if at all possible. Wash stuffed animals and blankets. Give the sick child or person their own towels to be washed often while ill.
9. Give lots of fluids and something to reduce fever while fever is present. Tylenol/ Motrin can be safe for children. Check recalls first and ask a pharmacist if in doubt. Never give a child Aspirin when they have a fever.
10. No cough medicine for children under six years old.
11. A few other excellent tips I picked up include: don’t take public transport while ill or during an outbreak if you can avoid this at all as you are more likely to spread germs.
12. If your child is ill with flu it can take a while for them to no longer be contagious. Do not rush them back to day care or school. A sick child belongs at home. Children should be at home if they have fever, are vomiting or have diarrhea. (Teachers don’t want to be bringing germs home to their families. Take it from me daughter of a teacher. My Mom taught grade two and got every cold that ever hit her classroom. Be kind and thoughtful.)
13. Monitor yourself and your family for changes. If the fever returns or if vomiting and nausea are severe – if chest pain occurs, or lethargy lasts longer than usual, then you need to seek medical help.
14. A sick person should drop their own Kleenexes in the garbage whenever possible. Lining a garbage with a plastic bag or buying a garbage with a foot pedal means you do not have to touch the dirty contents and lessens contact with germs.
15. This year my new rule is: No public fountains. I keep telling my sixer this as she is still too little to use one carefully and little kids often put their mouths right on the spout and spread a lot of germs that way. So our new family rule is carry your stainless steel water bottle with you and Just say No to Public Water Fountains.