You can’t turn on the television news lately without hearing about the flu epidemic. The seasonal flu seems to be a particularly strong virus this year. Here’s some useful information from the Center for Disease Control about how you can protect yourself from the flu and how to treat yourself and your host children should you get sick.
It is NOT too late to get a Flu Vaccine. Au Pair insurance does not cover immunizations, but there are lots of places to get flu shots for $30 or less. Check your local health department or stores with a pharmacy such as CVS, Target and Walgreens. If a host family is insisting that their au pair get a seasonal flu shot and she agrees to get it, the host family would be responsible for the expense.
An Ounce of Prevention
There are steps you can take in your daily life to help protect you from getting the flu.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people
- Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever reducing medicine.
Symptoms of the Flu
The flu and the common cold have similar symptoms. It can be difficult to tell the difference between them. Your healthcare provider can give you a test within the first few days of your illness to determine whether or not you have the flu.
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, tiredness, and cough are more common and intense with the flu.
Flu symptoms include:
- A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
- A cough and/or sore throat
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Headaches and/or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
Treating the Flu
You can treat flu symptoms without medication by:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Drinking clear fluids like water, broth, sports drinks, or electrolyte beverages to prevent becoming dehydrated
- Placing a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead, arms, and legs to reduce discomfort associated with a fever
- Putting a humidifier in your room to make breathing easier
- Gargling salt water (1:1 ratio warm water to salt) to soothe a sore throat
- Covering up with a warm blanket to calm chills
Children are at higher risk for getting the flu because their immune systems are not fully developed. If your host child gets sick, always ask your host parents before giving any medications to the children. There are strict guidelines for dosages and they MUST be followed. Never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have the flu. Giving aspirin to children with the flu can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye’s Syndrome. Read ingredient labels on over-the-counter medications carefully to ensure they do not contain aspirin.
We live in a time of constant sharing through social media. We often share pictures, plans of somewhere we are going or rants about problems, without thinking much about who will see it and what could be the consequences.
Before clicking post, stop to think:
- Am I violating someone’s privacy?
- Am I sharing personal info. that could put me in danger?
- Would I want my current or a future employer to see this?
This will help protect your privacy and safety as well as that of your host family. It is important to respect your host family’s privacy and not share personal details and information. This applies to all kinds of situations, including: personal conversations, email and social websites.
For your own safety, it is a good idea to be careful what personal information you share about yourself as well. You should not give out information like your telephone number and address to people you don’t know. Safer to meet a new friend in a public place, than to give them your address before knowing them.
Once you post something on the internet (even if you later delete it), it can show up elsewhere. Unless you have specific permission from your host family, you should never post pictures of them, their children or their home on the internet.
If you have a blog or website where you post in your native language, remember there is translation software. So, even if you say it in your native language, be sure it is not something you will regret.
Make your own play dough! –Play dough is the perfect modeling material for children. Their small hands can pat, poke, pinch, roll and knead it into many shapes. Keep it in an airtight container to use another day, or let it air dry into favorite shapes.
Measure 2 cups of flour, one cup of salt and 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of oil to one cup of water in a separate bowl then add the mixture to the dry ingredients. For colored play dough, squeeze 10-20 drops of food coloring into the water before you add it to the mixture. Cook the dough at low heat in a wide pan, stirring constantly until it becomes rubbery. Remove the dough from the heat and knead it for a few minutes. When it cools the kids can play too!
Today is a great opportunity to say something positive about the people you come into contact with ~ tell a stranger you like his tie, or her nail polish color. Make sure you are sincere and smile.
Homesickness can be a problem during the holidays, even if it hasn’t been at any other time of the year. Au pairs often miss their friends and family, familiar places and their own traditions and customs. The holiday activities in the United States seem, and may actually be, different just at a time when an au pair would welcome something familiar.
It is common for au pairs’ emotions to be close to the surface during the holidays. Her highs are higher, her lows are lower. The enormity of what she has done–actually living in another country (which is an amazing thing when you think about it!)–hits her and throws her into a self-protective mode.
Host parents can help her through this unfamiliar territory by talking to her about what your specific family activities will be (gifts, meals, visitors, religious services, in-home traditions, or none of these, as the case may be.) In the spirit of cultural exchange, ask her if she has any favorite holiday traditions or foods that you might be able to incorporate into your family’s celebration of the season. Let her know what you will be doing, when you will be doing it, and what she can expect. Talk to her about what has to be accomplished and get her involved and interested. Don’t expect her to just “know” what needs to be done. Give her some clear, agreed upon assignments. Make her feel a part of things. And, let her know her contribution is needed and appreciated.
Photo: Sheila Sund (Flickr)
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Even though a few other countries also celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s still considered a uniquely American holiday, one that the au pairs look forward to experiencing. You can learn more about it here.
“I really enjoyed Thanksgiving with my host family. It was as I imagined! So much food to try. Everyone got dressed up and shared what they were thankful for. It was so warm and special. The next day we began to prepare for Christmas. It was magical.” Selina from Germany
Below you will find some tips to help you have a terrific Thanksgiving experience.
1. Please plan to include your au pair in your Thanksgiving celebration, if at all possible. Thanksgiving with an au pair offers an opportunity to consider the relevance of the history and meaning of Thanksgiving as you compare the hospitality offered by the Native Americans to the recently arrived Pilgrims and the hospitality you offer your au pair.
2. If you are traveling or will not be able to invite your au pair to join you for Thanksgiving, give her plenty of notice and help her make alternate plans. You don’t want to leave your au pair alone over the holiday.
3. If you are invited to attend dinner, please let your family know within 5 days of the invitation, whether you are planning to attend. It is considered rude in America to accept the invitation for dinner and then change your mind later in the month. Please be thoughtful.
4. Make sure to discuss time off during this holiday weekend. Many host families work the Friday after Thanksgiving so do not assume you have this day off or the entire weekend. Talk to your host family, BEFORE you make any plans.
5. If your host family is unable to include you in their Thanksgiving plans, please let me know if you have trouble making other plans. You may be able to join a friend and their host family for the holiday dinner.
Bonus Tip for the Kids
If you are looking for a fun recipe to make with your au pair, check out these turkey cupcakes. Find more fun activities and recipes on the Au Pair in America Fall Holidays pinboard.
Photo: Tim Sackton (Flickr)