08 February 2012

Practical tips to prevent transmission

No one can completely avoid being exposed to the flu virus. But there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of getting flu.


By far the most effective way to prevent flu is to have the annual flu vaccine. However, some of these general measures may reduce the chances of infection with cold and flu viruses

  1. Wash your hands frequently and do not touch your nose, eyes or mouth unnecessarily. Teach your children to wash their hands before and after eating, after using the bathroom, after touching their noses, after spending time in a crowded public space and after touching animals.
  2. Discourage your child from sharing food, utensils, handkerchiefs, napkins and towels with classmates.
  3. "Contain" sneezes and coughs with disposable tissues (and make sure to dispose of them right away!) and wash your hands afterwards. Teach your children this habit.
  4. Try not to unnecessarily touch objects around you when in public places - such as the rail of the escalator, your coughing colleague's pen or computer mouse etc.
  5. Toys may be contaminated with respiratory secretions. Look for childcare centres where plastic toys are washed daily and stuffed toys washed weekly.
  6. Ensure that the daycare personnel handling your baby or toddler place a new cloth over their shoulder every time they hold a different baby. This is important!
  7. Drink lots of fluids and take a vitamin A or beta-carotene supplement to protect the inner mucous lining of the respiratory tract.
  8. To minimise exposure, avoid close contact and prolonged time with people with colds. With an incubation period of 1 - 4 days, and a contagious period of 7 days, or possibly longer, it is best to avoid any person with flu for at least 7 days. One infected person in a lift, bus, aeroplane, house, creche, school or army barrack can quite quickly infect the rest. Rather keep your toddler at home if a child at the crèche has the flu and yours is still healthy. Similarly, keep your child at home if they show symptoms of flu to avoid infecting other children.
  9. Clean surfaces - especially kitchen and bathroom tops - with a disinfectant soap.
  10. The Japanese have an excellent habit of wearing face masks when they have a cold. It is a very considerate thing to do and something we should adopt in South Africa.
  11. Quit smoking. Those who smoke are more vulnerable to complications of respiratory infections.

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