GC: Practice hand, cough hygiene to prevent from contracting or passing along cold and flu

Jessica  Rodrigo By Jessica Rodrigo

Sept. 30, 2011 at 4:30 a.m.

School is in full-swing, and to the parents of young ones, that means packing sack lunches, washing grass and dirt stains out of clothes, picking up and dropping off the kids from school and the unpredictable visits to the hospital or family physician for checkups.

Although the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website reported that the cold and flu season doesn't peak until the middle of winter, parents should still be wary of contracting and spreading the viruses, while teaching their children preventative measures and how to be proactive in maintaining their health.

"Hand hygiene is probably the biggest thing, and cough hygiene is another," said Vicky Foxell, a registered nurse and director of infection control with DeTar Hospital. "That includes sneezing into your elbow versus your hands or using Kleenex (to cover both the nose and mouth)."

Sharing contact with the same surfaces is a very common way of spreading and contracting sicknesses. And despite your efforts of identifying little Suzy's Hello Kitty pencil case as her own with big bold letters written in Sharpie permanent marker, she probably isn't the only one using its colorful markers and pencils to garner that creative spirit.

Another preventative measures includes scheduling the family to get this year's flu vaccinations. Each year, health clinics and pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreen Drug Store, offer flu vaccinations to protect against the current strand of the flu virus.

Dr. Tim Holcomb, a pharmacist and nutritionist with CVS/Pharmacy and owner of a nutrition practice in Victoria, explained that each year the CDC releases new information about the current strain of the virus for vaccine manufacturers and that getting the vaccine will help combat the flu.

He also said the vaccine may be helpful not only to children, but also to those with a weakened or lowered immune system including the elderly. Foxell encourages parents and children to stay current with their flu shots and other necessary vaccinations.

"It's very important because they're out there with

all the other kids. They're in the middle of it, basically," she said. "If they don't have it, they're likely to get the flu. With other kids sneezing and touching other surfaces ... the flu stays on those surfaces. It's really, very important if they're goingto be with other kids."

Though the common flu virus may be spread throughout the year, the cold shouldn't be overlooked.

"The common cold is pretty much the same thing. You want to make sure that you wash your hands, eat healthy, take vitamins," said Foxell. "Teach kids to wash their hands before they eat, and after they go to the bathroom."

Holcomb recommended taking vitamins, herbs and minerals for maintaining and boosting the immune system. He added that the flu vaccination will not protect against the common cold, but the same preventative measures can help to protect against it.



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