Fighting Flu Without the Flu Shot

The following are tips for reducing your risk of contracting influenza if you are unable to get the flu shot.

1. Clean your hands, clean your hands, clean your hands!

Wash your hands several times daily using warm water and scrubbing with soap at least 15 seconds (about the time it takes to sing the alphabet song). If water isn’t handy and the hands aren’t visibly soiled, an alcohol-based handrub may be used. Handrubs are available at stores or you can make up a simple handrub solution of three parts alcohol (either ethanol or isopropanol) and two parts glycerin—the alcohol in the solution will kill most germs. Put a dab about the size of a thumbnail on the palm and rub your hands together, covering all of the hands and rubbing until dry.

Handrubs are particularly nice when you’re away from the house or for kids to use in school. Encourage your child’s teacher to keep a squirt bottle of handrub solution handy and teach the children to use it after sneezing or coughing into a tissue or anytime their hands aren’t visibly soiled but in need of cleaning.

Along with influenza, there are many other respiratory illnesses on the hunt for human hosts. They spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes and his airborne droplets fall on nearby books, desktops, doorknobs and co-workers or classmates. Those around him breathe in the germs, or ingest them after touching germ-covered objects and then eating or rubbing their eyes or noses. Handwashing or the use of handrubs helps break this cycle.

2. Cover your cough.

Grab a tissue and cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing—this helps prevent germs from going airborne. If there’s no tissue to be had, use your sleeve. This sounds disgusting and may cause exuberant behavior in the classroom, but it is a way to stop germs from flying around the room. It’s important to clean one’s hands after sneezing or coughing, even if a tissue is used as a barrier.

3. Stay home if you’re sick.

If you get the flu, you will be infectious a day before symptoms appear and up to seven days after getting sick. Be kind to others—stay home if you’re infectious. Symptoms of the flu include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are more common among children than adults. Contact your physician for medical care.

4. Immunize yourself and your family against infectious diseases such as measles, meningitis, whooping cough (pertussis), hepatitis B and chickenpox.

If the flu vaccine is in short supply in a particular year, other vaccines are still available and it is critical to good health to take advantage of all methods of disease prevention. Influenza is just one of 12 vaccine-preventable diseases for which certain children should be vaccinated. Immunization against many of these diseases is also recommended for adolescents and adults.

To learn more about how to staying healthy during flu season, visit the following websites:


Important disclaimer: The information on is for educational purposes only and should not be considered to be medical advice. It is not meant to replace the advice of the physician who cares for your child. All medical advice and information should be considered to be incomplete without a physical exam, which is not possible without a visit to your doctor.

Information is the power
parents have over disease.