Holiday season flu and toy tips for your family

- With the holidays around the corner, there's flu season and those small toys in your kids' Christmas stocking that could both pose health risks. Dr. Shilpi Agarwal has tips to keep you and your kids safe this winter.

It's already shaping up to be a nasty flu season. The Centers for Disease Control says the strongest concentrations so far are in the southeast, from Louisiana to South Carolina.

Our region hasn't been hit hard yet, but some medical professionals say a combination of factors could make more of us susceptible.

Researchers look at Australia to see how their flu season is as a predictor for the US -- and in Australia, it has been harsh.

Additionally, researchers say vaccines prepared for this year are not a great match for the strain of flu that has been prevalent.

"But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't get the flu vaccine," says Dr. Agarwal. "It still provides some protection for you and for those around you," she says.

Dr. Agarwal says getting a flu shot will help with your symptoms and how long your strain of flu lasts.

If you're feeling sick, it may be more than just a cold if you have a high fever.

COLD SYMPTOMS:

  • cough
  • stuffy, runny nose
  • some mild aching 

FLU SYMPTOMS

  • high fever
  • fatigue
  • stuffy, runny nose
  • cough
  • severe body aches

"Your body aches and you've just really can't get out of bed.  If that's the case for you call your doctor because sometimes they can send in a medication for you," says Dr. Agarwal.

Additionally, there are lots of things to look for when picking out toys for your kids, especially those small dollar store toys that be more of a choking hazard for small children.

TOYS TO AVOID:

  • A toy package with a strong odor or fragrance may have been treated with chemicals
  • Peeling or chipping paint color. Low-quality paint may have lead or BPA in it
  • Small parts that can be swallowed or choked on

Dr. Agarwal recommends toys without paint, especially wood toys made in the US. She  also recommends looking for symbols on the package that say the toy is non-toxic, lead and BPA free.
 

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