Surefire Ways To Stop Your Family From Getting Sick This Flu Season - Exclusive

Every year, around October or November, we enter the start of flu season. By January and February, the numbers of flu cases in North America are usually at their peak. With the fall and winter months ahead, it's important to take precautions to keep you and your family safe this season. Karla Huntsman, MSN, RN, teaches for Arizona College of Nursing in Salt Lake City and is a volunteer at her local health department. She has been a nurse for 31 years with experience in the emergency department, pediatrics, and obstetrics and has been a full-time nurse educator for the last 16 years. In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Huntsman explains the nature of the virus and shares her tips for staying healthy this year.

"The flu is caused by a virus, which is found in small airborne particles in the form of aerosols or droplets that come from the respiratory system," Huntsman states. "These particles are shed from our mouth and nose as we cough, sneeze, or talk and they are then inhaled by others." In addition, Huntsman explains that flu virus particles can also be transferred through hand contact with contaminated surfaces.

Three ways families can minimize their flu risk this season

Huntsman tells Health Digest one of the daily precautions families can take during flu season is to routinely wash their hands. "Keeping our hands clean is one of the most effective ways to control the spread of many diseases, including the common cold, flu, and COVID-19," she states. "Lathering with soap and water for 20 seconds is the best way to ensure that germs get removed," Huntsman explains. Alternatively, for young children, she suggests singing along to the tune of the ABC song for a more interactive hand-washing experience. "Also, be sure to keep an alcohol-based sanitizer handy when soap and water is unavailable," she adds.

Huntsman's second tip involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle, particularly during the months of flu season. "The tried-and-true advice of getting plenty of sleep, exercising, eating a balanced diet, and drinking adequate amounts of fluid is vital to practice year-round. These habits are even more crucial for your family during respiratory illness season," she states. By taking steps to maintain our health, Huntsman explains that this better readies our immune system to fight off potential illness during the colder months of the year. "Our immune system relies on a healthy body to be able to fight off invaders. When we don't take care of ourselves, we become more likely to get sick, and it will take longer to recover."

Consider getting the flu vaccine

Huntsman tells Health Digest that the COVID-19 booster shot is not the only vaccine people will want to consider getting this flu season. Her third tip is for families to get vaccinated against the flu as well. "Get the flu shot. As we have been fighting COVID, some of us have forgotten the flu can be a severe respiratory illness and one that we should all avoid," she says. "Thousands of people each year are hospitalized and even die from flu complications," Huntsman adds. To help safeguard against these potential complications, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the flu vaccine can lessen one's risk of flu-related illness anywhere from 40% to 60%.

So at what point during the year is it best to receive your flu shot? "To prevent the spread of the flu in your family, everyone over six months of age should get their annual flu shot, ideally in September or October," says Huntsman. "For those over 65 years of age, there is a special high-dose flu shot that is even more effective in this age group." Huntsman also encourages getting both the updated COVID-19 booster and the flu shot simultaneously. "The COVID-19 shots available now are more effective against the newest strains of the virus. But don't forget the flu shot for additional protection," she concludes.

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