Health Family Fall I Winter 2017 - Page 5

Shoo, Flu! Experts offer advice on how you and your family can protect yourselves and stay well during the year’s most sickly season. The kids are back to school and the chill is beginning to creep in, which means just one thing: Flu season is upon us. Different from your run of the mill stomach bug, Gail Davis, RN, program administrator at Hasbro Children’s Ambulatory Services, explains that the flu (a.k.a. influenza) is a “contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses.” The most common flu symptom is fever plus cough, but other signs may include a runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. And while it seems like just about everyone has had the flu at some point in their lives, Davis warns that the illness “can range from mild to severe and in some cases can lead to hospitalizations or even death.” But there’s no need to panic! Davis and her colleague, Dr. Michael Smit of Hasbro Children’s Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital, say there are a number of ways to help prevent yourself and your loved ones from getting sick in the first place:    Get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is a state supplied vaccine for children age six months to under nineteen years old. It is also supplied to adults who are Rhode Island residents or to non-Rhode Island residents who are covered under Rhode Island employee health plans. Free flu clinics for adults (age 19 and up) are also offered by the Lifespan Community Health Institute throughout the fall and winter seasons. The flu clinics are for RI residents, regardless of insurance status. If insured, please bring your insurance card with you. Visit lifespan.org/centers- services/lifespan-community-health-institute for upcoming dates.    Wash your hands frequently throughout the days using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This cannot be stressed enough, espec ially for those who use public facilities or spend their days around other children.    Cough or sneeze into your elbow (and not your hand!) to protect others. Teach your children to do the same.    Keep up good health habits by getting plenty of sleep, drinking plenty of fluids, exercising and eating nutritious snacks and meals. Feeling under the weather anyway? Here are some tips for how to get well again:    Stay home. Children should be fever free for 24 hours before returning to school.    Rest and drink plenty of fluids.    Treat the fever. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help alleviate discomfort (but always be sure to check the dosage on the bottle before administering).    Check in with your health care provider if you have underlying health conditions, if you are pregnant or if symptoms persist or worsen. BEING IN THE PRESENT Know how the holidays always seem to go by in the blink of an eye? Some say it’s because time flies when you’re having fun, but there’s also the flipside: The holiday season can get hectic! With mile-long to-do lists, even the best of us can forget that it’s the most wonderful time of year. So how do you make sure that you and your family fully cherish the time you have together? Natalie Zervas, PhD, Dialectical Behavior Therapy program manager and staff psychologist at Bradley Hospital, suggests you try mindfulness, a Buddhist practice that encourages people to focus on being in the present moment. “So instead of constantly thinking about everything that makes you feel over- whelmed, you’re practicing breaking down these situations into smaller, more manageable moments,” says Zervas. “It’s really a life skill; instead of focusing your thinking on what will be happening next or what just happened, you’re paying attention to the here and now.” So if you want to guarantee that your future holiday memories are filled with nothing but love and joy, just keep the following tips from Dr. Zervas in mind – your loved ones will follow your lead! Schedule one activity at a time and don’t multitask (read: put the phones away for a bit!) Rely on your individual senses. Not just what you see in the moment, but what do you hear, smell and feel? If you do catch yourself thinking about what’s up next, pause and bring yourself back into the moment. If you’re with the kids, act like a sports commentator and announce what you’re doing out loud, whether it be cracking an egg or picking out an outfit for religious service. Focus on the positive aspects of a situation. If you’re standing in a never-ending line at the mall, remind yourselves that Aunt Sally is going to be so happy to receive that gift. If you’re stuck in traffic on the way to Grandma’s house, turn up the radio and sing along to your favorite festive tunes or reminisce about your favorite holiday memories. HEALTHY FAMILY l FALL/WINTER 2017     5