Fortunately California has not been hit as hard with the flu as other parts of the country.
Suddenly Frugal has a list of free and cheap flu shots. Flu shots this season are thought to be about 60% effective. If you prefer to go the natural route, here are some suggestions from a physician.
RiteAid has some answers to questions/misconceptions you may have about the flu, like whether the flu shot can give you the flu, whether it's too late for the flu shot to be helpful now, and whether pregnant women should get the shot.
The government has a flu website (flu.gov) you might want to look through.
Here are some recommendations we got from a county agency. Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person, through coughing, sneezing, or talking with someone with the flu. They also spread when people touch something with the flu virus on it and then touch their eyes, mouth or nose.
You can infect someone (you're contagious) with your flu virus 1 day before symptoms develop and you know you're sick, and up to 5-7 days after getting sick/symptoms. Young kids who are really sick, and those with severely weakened immune systems, might be contagious longer than 7 days.
To help prevent the spread of flu germs, here are some steps you can take
1. Get a flu shot (see above for free/cheap flu shots)
2. Wash your hands often and when applicable
3. Cover your mouth when you cough (preferably with your elbow so you don't get germs on your hands)
4. Stay home if you feel sick!!!!
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
6. Try to avoid close contact with sick people (good luck if it's your kids or spouse)
7. If your kid gets sick, keep them out of school and limit contact with others as much as possible. Keep your kid home at least 24 hours after fever ends, unless you need medical care.
The Giant Microbes company (they make adorable plush microbes like the one featured here) sent me a handwashing kit to try out.
Inside is a small common cold microbe (key chain size - my kids are so going to fight over who gets this). There's also a special flashlight, germ detection lotion and germ detection powder (plus an booklet and some stickers). Basically it's a way to teach kids how washing your hands takes the germs away. You're supposed to sprinkle some of the germ powder on your hands and then shake hands with your friends/family. Then ask everyone to wash their hands normally. Then you use the UV light to see how the germs spread. You can also sprinkle powder or gel on the counter and see it with the UV light. Wipe it with a sponge, check it with the light. Now wash with cleaning products and look at the difference.
Now admittedly I haven't actually TRIED it yet. Last week when my son was home (5 days in a row) with a stomach ache would have been the perfect time to try. But alas we didn't. There is enough powder and gel to bring this to class or a scout troop to try with a larger group of people.
If you're interested in getting the kit, you can find it here
The last thing that might be helpful in hand washing, is the musical hand wash timer. We got one of these at the toy fair. You put it over the handle of your soap bottle, and when you push it down, it plays a song. You're supposed to wash your hands as long as the song is going. Now if your kids are 9 and 11, the song is EXTEREMELY annoying and you'll want to take it off immediately. However if your kids are younger (and really, this is who it's aimed at), it's a fun way to teach them how long to wash their hands (the one above plays If You're Happy and You Know it). And at $4, you really can't complain too much. It comes in two designs, the one above, and one of a little boy. Not sure why they don't have a little girl, but oh well.