Your ZIP code could hold clues to your flu risk

Your ZIP code could hold clues to your flu risk »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. – Your ZIP code can unlock clues about your chances of getting the flu this winter.

Researchers say if you live in a ZIP code with a high percentage of children, you have a greater chance of ending up in the emergency room because of the flu.

One study found that if the percentage of children in your ZIP code goes up one percent, your chances of ending up in the ER with the flu increase four percent.

Percent of children in each Oregon ZIP code
Percent of children in each Washington ZIP code

That begs the question: which ZIP codes in Oregon have the highest percentages of children? Here they are:

97384 – Mehama – 39 percent children

97909 – Jamieson – 37 percent children

97920 – Westfall – 36 percent children

The highest percentages of children all fall in rural areas, but there are plenty of high percentages in the Portland-area, as well.

ZIP code 97233 in SE Portland is one of the highest, with 29 percent children.

Dr. Dan Handel, an emergency room doctor at Oregon Health and Science University, said it’s not just the fact that kids go to school and congregate in tight quarters that increases risk. It’s also the fact that they have not yet developed good habits for stopping the spread of germs.

“Kids probably aren’t as diligent about covering their mouths when they sneeze, washing their hands afterwards,” Dr. Handel said. “I think they’re more prone to spreading it to other kids and other people in general.”

He said no matter which ZIP code you live in, it’s important to work on good hygiene habits with your children. That includes washing your hands any time you are exposed to something new, lathering your hands for a long time and coughing and sneezing into your sleeve.