Flu season is upon us. And the 2018 flu is shaping up to be among the toughest in recent years. The CDC reports 49 of 50 U.S. states with widespread symptoms, and the Public Health Agency of Canada reports flu cases throughout the country with Ontario and British Columbia hardest hit.
It’s no joke in the hockey world. A 10-year-old Connecticut player died from complications caused by the flu while traveling to a tournament just this month. This season’s flu strain has been especially hard-hitting, with increased hospitalizations, and lower immunity responses to flu shots.
Hockey players, families, and billet hosts may have an increased risk of sharing the flu once someone is infected. After all, players share the weight room. The locker room. Hotel rooms. And long, long bus rides. All ideal opportunities for the flu virus to spread.
There are steps you can take. For starters, it’s not too late to get a flu shot! Although it takes 1-2 weeks to be fully effective, flu season is expected to last until late March – just in time for playoff games.
In addition to the flu shot, some sound advice for every person in a youth and junior hockey organization:
TEAM FLU PREVENTION
- Once a player has the flu, have everyone else on the team (coaches, too!) get tested immediately.
- Individuals testing positive may be prescribed Tamiflu which can significantly decrease symptoms and duration of illness.
- Consider a quarantine. Better to get it over with and out of the locker room before playoffs start.
PLAYER FLU PREVENTION
- Get vaccinated at the start of the season. If you’ve haven’t had a shot yet, it’s not too late.
- Even if you’ve rarely been sick in the past, hockey circumstances put you at much higher risk.
- Visit the doctor as soon as you feel flu symptoms. A Tamiflu prescription can reduce symptoms and length of time you’re off the ice – but it’s only effective at the beginning of the illness.
- Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.
- Don’t share water bottles on the bench.
BILLET HOME FLU PREVENTION
- Your player is going to bring home the team’s gunk. Be prepared.
- Likewise, your family’s flu is likely to spread to your player—and the team.
- Enforce hand washing. And lots of it.
- The flu virus is largely airborne. Ensure good household circulation. Medical masks are a great idea when someone at home is sick.
- As a backup measure, wipe down door knobs, light switches, refrigerator door, cabinet doors…anyplace commonly touched by the household.
- Encourage and facilitate doctor visits. Make sure you have proper releases for your player.
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