December 10, 2004

Colds, Flu in La Casa?

Here’s some handy hints to get well soon

With the nationwide flu vaccine shortage this year, more than half of Latinos say they are concerned that someone in their family will come down with the flu, but only 21 percent of those surveyed described themselves as “very knowledgeable” about steps they could take to avoid the flu, according to a new survey of Latino consumers.

“Hispanics are more likely to be hospitalized because of the flu than the general population,” said Dr. Francisco Delgado. “In fact influenza (along with pneumonia) is the ninth leading cause of death for Hispanics in this country, and children are even more susceptible to cold and flu bugs that can make them sick.”

Less access to healthcare means that many Latinos are less likely to receive the annual flu vaccination than non-Hispanics (in 2002, less than half of Latinos in the US received the vaccine). Every year approximately 35 to 50 million Americans suffer from the cold and flu, resulting in more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths .

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children are two to three times more likely to get sick with the flu than adults. The highest incidence is found to be between 5 to 14 year olds who spend a large portion of their time in school and with other classmates.

“Children are constantly surrounded by germs, whether at school, playgrounds, or even at home in their own kitchen,” states Dr. Delgado. “Frequent hand washing, using soap and water and rubbing vigorously for about a half a minute is key-but it’s not enough.”

When a person has a cold or flu, the surfaces they touch throughout the day become germ transfer points. To help interrupt the transmission of disease, cleaning and disinfecting is a key step.

Dr. Delgado recommends following a simple cleaning routine around the house:

THE KITCHEN

For many Latino families, the kitchen is the heart of the house, and yet researchers say it is also one of the biggest “hot zones,” regularly attracting germs that can lead to serious illnesses like the flu. To help keep your kitchen germ-free, disinfect top bacteria breeding areas, like kitchen faucets and refrigerator door handles, at least three times a week using a product that both cleans and disinfects at the same time. Clean kitchen floors with a mixture of bleach and water. Don’t forget sponges. They’re frequently the germiest spot in a kitchen.

THE BATHROOM

The bathroom is another major “hot zone” for germs. Toilet flush handles, faucets and doorknobs are the most common places for flu-causing germs to breed. For fast and convenient germ fighting, clean these areas daily.

THE LIVING ROOM

Telephones and television remote controls can also harbor germs if someone infected with the cold and flu virus touches them. A recent study conducted by the University of Arizona concluded that a person can touch and retouch up to 300 surfaces in just 30 minutes, contaminating and re-contaminating frequently touched surfaces which can make you and your loved ones sick. Keep disinfecting wipes nearby to clean these “hot zones” quickly and effectively.

CHILDREN’S ROOMS

Children often pass along germs by sharing toys. To keep your children’s play area sanitary, use the following methods to kill germs and protect them from colds and the flu. Toys without batteries can be cleaned using a cup of hot soapy water mixed with one tablespoon of bleach Plush or fabric toys can be cleaned along with the laundry. To get out germs and bacteria, use bleach into the bleach dispenser as the washer fills.*

1. Wash up! Because flu transmission can occur by touching a contaminated surface, wash hands frequently with soap and water. Make hand washing a priority and encourage everyone in your household to do the same, especially before and after preparing foods, using the bathroom, diapering babies, feeding and playing with pets, treating a sick family member, sneezing or coughing or any outdoor activities.

2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. The mucus membranes in these areas make it easier for germs to be quickly absorbed by the body.

3. Beware of the “hot zones.” Hot zones are areas that attract germs that can lead to serious illnesses like the flu. Cleaning wipes make it easier to keep germs from making the rounds on surfaces in your home. Keep wipes handy in all rooms to quickly disinfect the hot zones in your house everyday. Doorknobs, telephones, light switches and TV remotes are commonly touched surfaces that are transfer points for germs.

4. Clean up after dinner for a truly healthy meal. Always wipe up the table after eating at home. If your desk at work doubles as a lunch table most days, keep disinfecting wipes in your desk to clean up after lunch. This will dramatically reduce bacteria and germs on your desk and lower the risk of bringing home flu bugs to your family.

5. Use your sick-days. If you or your loved one does develop the flu, they should stay home from work or school. Employees who stay home when they are sick can dramatically reduce the spread of colds and flu in the workplace, and consequently save their companies $12 billions annually in medical treatments and lost productivity.

6. Pay attention to labels. To disinfect properly, always follow product label directions. Antibacterial hand soaps and dishwashing liquids don’t disinfect hard surfaces like countertops, sinks and faucets. Remember: Always read and follow precautions and usage directions before use. Store cleaning products out of the reach of children.

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