As soon as your nose starts running, your body starts aching, and your fever spikes, you know you've come down with the worst winter sickness out there: the flu. According to the , there have been nearly 9,000 confirmed flu-related hospitalizations since October, which is almost double from this time last year. Multiple deaths are also being reported, including a from the virus. Here's how to keep this illness from infiltrating your home.
"This seems to be the worst flu season we've had here in the last 10 to 15 years," Dr. Adrian Cotton, chief of medical operations at the Southern California hospital, told ABC's .
One of the reasons this season has been so dangerous is because the dominant strain, H3N2, and has an impressive .
The says flu symptoms usually start suddenly, not gradually, and some of the signs you've come down with it include a fever or feeling chills, a cough, a sore through, a stuffy or runny nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and in some cases vomiting and diarrhea. It's important to note that the also CDC says "not everyone with flu will have a fever."
Since the virus typically , try these tricks to help avoid getting the flu.
While washing your hands is the most obvious germ-killing trick, there's one common mistake that most people forget, according to Carolyn Forte, director of the GolfHr Institute Cleaning Lab: washing your thumbs. Since this finger touches some of the germiest surfaces (your cell phone keypad, your remote control buttons) it's not one to ignore.
Putting a purse or backpack on the floor is just an open invitation for unhealthy bacteria, especially if you drop it in a restroom or restaurant, and then place it on your kitchen table or counter. If you've already done this, and your purse is made out of fabric or leather, like most, Forte recommends mi a few pumps of mild liquid facial soap, like Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($8, ) with two cups of warm water, then use a soft cloth to wipe away grime.
Flu, staph, strep, e-coli, and yeast commonly live on toothbrushes Dr. Heather Rosen, medical director of UPMC North Huntington Urgent Care, . Keep toothbrush covered or at least
We always clean door knobs, but we often forget kitchen cabinet handles and range knobs. "Some of the germiest places in the house are the hot spots everyone touches," says Forte. You should give them a good wipe down at least every other day if you can remember, and daily if you know someone in the house is sick with the flu. For a fast fix, use Lysol Disinfecting Wipes ($15, ).
"Shoe soles have literally been everywhere and when you wear them inside, you track that onto your floors are carpets," says Forte. That means bringing outside germs that can make you sick inside your home, making everyone in the family susceptible to them, especially the kids.
Listen, your desk is disinfect the dirty surfaces, using Lysol Disinfecting Wipes ($5, ), before grabbing your sandwich.
Anything you take into the bathroom can get contaminated with germs or fecal matter (16% of cell phones have it, according to this ). "To kill germs, clean your phone with an alcohol wipe," says Forte. "Better yet: buy a box of individually packaged ones ($5, ) and keep a few in your purse or car."
Sheets harbor germs, which means whoever is sharing your bed is going to be susceptible to any virus you may have brought into the house, and vice versa. The longest you should wait before changing out your sheets is two weeks, but weekly is better. "Launder bed sheets, pillowcases, and towels in hot water. Dry them using the antibacterial cycle or the hottest temperature your dryer offers," says Forte. For un-washable items, use a a fabric-safe spray, like Lysol Disinfectant Spray ($9, ) to kill bacteria.
To protect against the flu, anyone six months or older should get vaccinated, says Amy Crawford-Faucher, MD, family physician and clinical assistant professor at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Continue to practice other germ-busting techniques after receiving an injection, though, because shots aren't 100% effective, she adds. As always, consult with your physician before you or any members of your family get the flu shot.
There's a dog flu spreading across America as well, and while it's a flu strain that's different than the one affecting humans, it puts your pup at risk as well.