Simple steps like washing hands, sanitizing, sanitizing surfaces, and avoiding physical contact can help prevent flu at home, at school, and in the workplace.
Written by Tehreem Khan
Media Contact: Hannah Echols
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the number of Alabamaans showing signs of a flu-like illness is increasing with each passing week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Alabama is one of the top three states with the worst flu outbreaks.
Homes, classrooms and workplaces are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. Experts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham discuss how to limit the spread in these places to protect your friends, family and colleagues.
Start at home
“You can’t sanitize your home, but you can clean and disinfect things to improve your chances of preventing the flu,” said Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., a professor in the UAB School of Public Health.
Cleaning frequently touched surfaces with soap and water and disinfectant sprays can kill germs and reduce the risk of infection. The biggest sources of germs in the home are surfaces such as countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, toys, telephones and faucet handles.
If you have someone sick in your home, Judd advises not sharing items like glasses, cutlery and towels with them.
“If possible, choose a bathroom for the sick person and a private bedroom for sleeping, and plan to clean those spaces daily,” Judd said. “Frequent hand washing and disposable face masks, especially for residents with medical conditions, are also good preventive measures.”
Raising children in the classroom
Educating children about the flu and other infectious diseases begins at home, but should continue at school as well. Children spend most of their day at school or daycare, and they need to be healthy and alert to be successful in the classroom.
“There is concern that there will be higher rates of cold and flu this season due to lower exposure to viruses and lower immunity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it is important that school administrators, teachers and students remain vigilant. said Retta Evans, Ph.D., a professor at the UAB School of Education. “When you find ways to incorporate hand and surface hygiene education into your lesson plans, learning will be fun and will resonate more with younger children.”
In classrooms, educators should take responsibility for teaching cleanliness and disinfection techniques. Some activities include:
- Sing “If You Are Happy and You Know It, Scrub Your Hands” while washing your hands to ensure students wash for a sufficient amount of time.
- Model washing your hands with the appropriate amount of soap.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow/sleeve if a handkerchief is not available.
- Simulate the spread of germs with a drop of unscented lotion and a sprinkle of glitter. Make a fist with glitter inside and then open your hand to show glitter spreading. The teacher touches another child’s hand to show the glitter spreading slightly. Use a paper towel to wipe off the glitter. The glitter is difficult to remove, which shows how easily germs can spread from person to person.
Parents can also help keep germs out of classrooms by:
- Send hand sanitizer paper, tissues and sanitizer to keep the classroom clean.
- Leave the child at home if they have a fever, cough or sneeze excessively, are lethargic, or have other flu symptoms. If symptoms persist, call your pediatrician.
- Talk to your kids about the flu and its symptoms so they can identify themselves and practice self-care.
- Teach children proper handwashing techniques by supervising the first few times.
- Illustrate your cleaning behavior by keeping your home organized and sanitized.
Keep it clean when you work
Much like preventing infection at home, Judd says, by following simple workplace hygiene rules, you and your co-workers can be protected:
- Stay home if you are not feeling well.
- wash hands frequently.
- Disinfect your hands often.
- Reconsider eating together if you or a colleague has cold/flu symptoms.
- Minimize close contact such as handshakes and hugs.
- Have cleaning supplies such as disinfectant wipes and disinfectants ready.
If you have flu-like symptoms, isolate yourself. If symptoms persist, see a doctor. To keep you and others from becoming seriously ill, get your flu shot at UAB today.