Texas Living

Wash the Flu Away

By Valirie Morgan 10.12.16

It’s a phrase you heard over and over as a kid: “Wash your hands!” As it turns out, that simple advice is as good as it gets when it comes to staying healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls hand-washing a “do-it-yourself vaccine” and “the best way to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.” Give yourself the upper hand by teaching children (and even adults who need a reminder!) to practice good hygiene habits — especially now that flu season is upon us. Why not choose October 15 to spread these tips (instead of germs) in your house. It is, after all, Global Handwashing Day! 

Hand-washing 101

The CDC advises these simple steps to effectively wash away germs:

  • First things first, get your hands wet and lather with soap. Make sure to cover the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your fingernails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Help your child understand how long that is by telling them to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice in a row every time they lather up.  
  • Rinse off your hands thoroughly, and then dry them with a clean towel or let them air-dry.
  • Once you’re done washing up, show your child all the places germs can live around the house and explain when they should wash their hands, like before eating dinner and after using the bathroom.

If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, which studies show is more effective at killing germs than products with a lower alcohol concentration or without it altogether. But keep in mind that soap and water is the most effective way to clean your hands.

Flu-season germ busters

While you’re reminding your kids to wash their hands and showing them the proper way to do so, here are a few other recommendations for fighting off germs during cold and flu season:

  • Now is the time for your annual flu shot. The CDC says the single best way to ward off the flu is getting vaccinated, so schedule a doctor’s appointment for the whole family. 
  • Influenza and some serious respiratory illnesses (think whooping cough and SARS) are spread by coughing and sneezing. In your family, promote using a tissue or coughing/sneezing into your elbow if you don’t have one handy.
  • A National Institutes of Health study found that people touch their face 3.6 times per hour and common objects 3.3 times per hour! Teach your kids (and remind yourself) to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth, as germs can spread from contaminated surfaces they’ve come into contact with like doorknobs, toys, or the TV remote.
  • To prevent the spread of germs, wipe down high-traffic areas and frequently used items regularly, but especially after a member of your household has gotten over the flu (think countertops, cellphones, computers, and faucets). Don’t forget to empty out and disinfect trash cans, too.
  • Sanitize your kids’ stuff to stop the flu in its tracks. Throw plush toys in the washing machine (use the delicate cycle if you’re worried about damaging your kiddo’s favorite teddy bear). Plastic toys without batteries can be soaked in hot, soapy water or run through the dishwasher. If you’re still left with stubborn gunk, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises using a vinegar and baking soda mix. And don’t neglect metal and wood toys — they can be cleaned with a damp microfiber cloth.

We know you’re worried about your kids, but don’t forget to keep yourself healthy, too. Follow these tips for cleaning up your act this fall. 

Don’t get sidelined by sickness. Talk to your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent about health coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield to keep your family happy and healthy all year long.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualification and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2016 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance