Don't let the grandkids make you ill this Christmas!

Health
12 December 2017
Grandchildren could be 'super-spreaders' of germs, so follow these steps to protect yourself from flu this Christmas.

UK grandparents are being warned that their grandchildren could make them ill during family visits over the Christmas season if they are not taking steps to protect their health.

NHS England has gone as far as to label children 'super-spreaders' of germs, as they are exposed to so many bugs at school and activity clubs. As a result, kisses and cuddles with grandma and grandad at Christmas time could see these germs being passed on, with the risk increasing if you haven't taken steps to protect your immune system by getting the flu jab.

But just how much of a risk do the grandkids pose and what steps can you take to ensure you can all enjoy a happy Christmas together making memories, without being cooped up in bed with the flu?

Exactly how big is the risk?

Statistics from the NHS show that flu contributes to around 8,000 deaths in the UK every year. Complications from flu can arise in anyone who catches the virus, but this is more likely to be the case for people with weaker immune systems, such as pregnant women, those with asthma or other illnesses, and older people. You might feel physically fit and much younger than you actually are, but you need to remember that your immune system isn't what it once was.

This is why the NHS offers the protective flu jab for free to everyone aged 65 and over in the UK. If you're under this age, you can still receive the vaccine, but you might have to pay, so speak to your GP to find out.

Pregnant women and young children are also eligible for the flu jab, so this year the NHS is urging the parents of small children to make sure they have undergone the vaccine before they spend time with their grandparents this Christmas.

Professor Keith Willett, medical director for acute care at NHS England, explained: "Flu can be spread more easily by children, especially to vulnerable relatives such as older grandparents, those with heart or lung conditions and pregnant family members.

"With less than a month until family gatherings over the festive season, there's still time for parents to get their 'super-spreader' children vaccinated to help protect elderly relatives over Christmas and before the flu season traditionally reaches its peak."

But what can you do to give yourself a little more protection?

Enjoy a family Christmas without the worry of illness

Aside from having the flu jab, you can try to give your immune system an extra boost by taking vitamin C supplements or by increasing your intake of foods that contain this nutrient, such as oranges, tomatoes, kale and bell peppers. These vegetables can easily be added to a winter warmer stew and oranges are a lovely festive snack, so it shouldn't be a challenge to up your intake.

Wrap up warm when you're out and about; it's especially chilly out there at the moment. Try to always wear a scarf to keep your neck and chest protected from the cold, reducing your risk of catching a chest infection.

Practising good hygiene is also important for keeping flu at bay, especially if you're looking after the little ones. It should go without saying, but washing your hands thoroughly and regularly, and always covering your face before coughing or sneezing - and washing your hands again afterwards - are vital to help stop your germs spreading to others around you.

If you spot your grandchildren getting sniffly, teach them to adopt the same habits to prevent them from spreading their germs to others too.

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