Taking the Mystery Out Of H1N1
What exactly is H1N1 and why does it have just a everyone so concerned? According to the Mayo Clinic, H1N1 flu -- popularly known as swine flu -- is a respiratory infection caused by an influenza virus first recognized in spring 2009. The H1N1 vaccine is indeed one way to avoid getting sick. However, if you can't get the vaccine or choose not to be vaccinated, there are several beneficial precautions you and your family can take.
Wash Your Hands
One of the most important things you can do to avoid getting H1N1 and many other viruses is to wash your hands. Using warm water and soap -- and singing a song like 'Happy Birthday' while washing -- are good ways to ensure germs are scrubbed away.
Getting enough sleep -- eight to ten hours each night for grade-school children through adults -- can be one of the best things you can do to help boost your immune system.
Make sure you're getting enough vitamin C. Oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables are all good natural sources. According to popular physician and integrative medicine specialist Dr. Andrew Weil, adults can consume 200 milligrams of Vitamin C daily.
Keep your kids (and yourself!) home from school or work if you're feeling ill. "We have this cultural bias today -- we reward kids that have perfect attendance, and I'm sure no one goes through perfect attendance without going to school sick," says best-selling author and patient advocate Dr. Erica Schwartz. "Let's reward families for social consciousness instead!" says Dr. Schwartz, who reminds us that it is much more important to not spread disease than it is to be at school or work every day.
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Change Your Clothes
When you get home from work or your children get home from school, take a moment to sit down, take off your shoes, and change into different clothes. If time permits, jump in the shower or wash your children's faces and hands. "We wash up after playing outside or working in a factory or restaurant -- why not do the same everyday?" says Dr. Schwartz. Changing your clothes as soon as you get home helps not spread anything you've picked up during the day (think public transportation, office buildings, school rooms, the mall) and transfers those germs to the laundry pile instead of to your loved ones.
Whether at home or at school, getting outside isn't just a great outlet for pent up energy, it offers kids (and adults) a chance to breath in fresh air and reboot. Even just a short walk out for a cup of coffee or a trip around the block exploring your neighborhood can work wonders.
Keep Surfaces Clean
Bathrooms, kitchen counter tops, doors and knobs, computer keyboards, and more all retain germs. Wash down well-trafficked areas as often as you can.
Breastfeed Your Baby
Infants who are not breastfeeding are more vulnerable to infection and hospitalization for severe respiratory illness than infants who are breastfeeding, states the Center for Disease Control (CDC). As a result, it's a good idea for women who aren't ill with influenza to initiate early and feed frequently. The CDC suggests that parents eliminate unnecessary formula supplementation so their child can receive as much maternal antibodies as possible.
Copyright © 2009 Meredith Corporation.
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H1N1 Resource Guide
For more information on H1N1 and tips on staying healthy this flu season, check out these resources: