The flu: What you need to know to protect your family

The 2003-2004 flu season has started earlier in the year than usual and is proving to be particularly dangerous to young children. Vaccination is recommended for pregnant women in their second and third trimesters and healthy babies from 6 to 23 months of age. Though the strain in this season's flu vaccine is somewhat different from the main circulating strain causing illness in the U.S., experts are still recommending the vaccine, as it should still provide some cross protection. If you or your baby still needs to be vaccinated, and your health care provider has run out of vaccine, call your state health department for more information.

Preventing the Flu

For all families, prevention is key. Follow these 10 tips to stay healthy this winter:

  1. Avoid taking babies or young children into large crowds when the flu is in your area.
  2. Avoid close contact, such as kissing and holding, between infants and anyone who has a cold or the flu.
  3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  4. Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers after being in public or around anyone with a cold or the flu.
  5. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; use a tissue only once and then throw it away. If no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.
  6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  7. Do not share things that go into the mouth, such as drinking cups, straws, spoons, etc.
  8. Clean common surfaces, such as doorknobs, refrigerator handles and phones, frequently if someone in your house has a cold or the flu.
  9. Keep your child home or stay home yourself if you have the flu (fever, muscle aches, cough).
  10. Don't smoke around children, and avoid secondhand smoke.
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