Handwashing and the Flu

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu activity begins to increase in October, peaking between December and February, and diminishing by May.  This means the flu season has officially begun.

As public health staff, we all know the importance of handwashing to prevent illness. Teaching our children about the importance of handwashing can help prevent the spread of illness in your home.

The CDC has many helpful resources to prevent illness, including a “Teaching Children about Flu Activity” booklet, which can be found here:  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/teachingchildrenflu.pdf.

In addition to handwashing, medical experts say the best protection against the flu virus is to get vaccinated. The flu virus is constantly changing. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends annual flu vaccination for all persons aged six months and older. It is important to get a flu vaccine every season, even if you got it last year.

It is especially important for high-risk patients to get vaccinated. This includes those who are age 65 or older, pregnant women, and children younger than five years, but especially younger than two years. Even healthy people need a flu vaccination. The flu is a contagious disease that affects the lungs and can lead to serious illness, including pneumonia. Healthy people can get sick enough to miss work or school for a significant amount of days, or even be hospitalized.

The CDC recommends:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from also getting sick.
  • If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching the flu.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs in general.

For information on the flu and vaccination, visit the CDC’s website: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/.

By: Susan Guthier, RN, BSN
Hepatitis C Linkage to Care Coordinator