Health officials are reporting widespread influenza outbreaks in 47 of 50 states, up from just a week ago.
One age group hit particularly hard is children and the American Red Cross has some steps parents can teach their kids to help them avoid getting sick.
Washing hands: Kids have a way of picking up colds and other illnesses. Parents should teach children proper hand washing techniques and how to correctly cover coughs or sneezes. Washing hands properly is an important step to avoid getting the flu. Wash hands with soap and warm water. Wash for at least 20 seconds, covering the entire hand including fingernails and under jewelry, . rinse and dry thoroughly with a disposable towel and use the towel to turn off the faucet.
Sneezing and coughing: If a child has to cough or sneeze, parents should teach them to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue and wash their hands afterwards. If they don't have a tissue, they should be taught to cough or sneeze into their elbow or upper arm, not their hands.
Safety steps: The most important thing parents can do is get children six months of age or older a flu vaccine as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Children's caregivers should also get vaccinated. Other steps parents can take include keeping surfaces like bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys for children clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant. If someone in the household is sick, try to keep the sick person in a separate room from others in the household, if possible.
If the child becomes ill: If a child gets sick, parents should consult their doctor. They should also make sure their child gets plenty of rest and fluids. If the child is breathing fast or having trouble breathing, has bluish or gray skin color, refuses to drink, is vomiting, is irritable or has trouble staying awake, parents should get the child medical help right away. The child should stay home from school or day care until at least 24 hours after their fever is gone.
— American Red Cross