It’s that time of year! You’ll start noticing a lot more people coughing, sneezing and sniffling – and people absent at work or from your kids’ classrooms. Flu season is upon us and our germ-sharing children are most at risk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza is a contagious respiratory sickness caused by a virus that can infect the ears, nose, throat and sometimes the lungs.
Flu symptoms can include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny and stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue. Children may not experience all signs of the flu at once, so keep a watchful eye on your little ones because symptoms can worsen up to four days after exposure.
Protect Your Kids From the Flu
- According to the CDC, there were 186 pediatric flu-related deaths in the 2017-18 flu season. Approximately 80% of these children were not vaccinated. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend that ALL children 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine. It is the best method for prevention.
- Germs can spread even before signs and symptoms are present – which is why it is so important to always practice good hand hygiene. Wash hands regularly with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds – measure this time by singing the “happy birthday” song twice.
- Use antibacterial hand rub frequently. Keep bottles nearby at all times.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Infected droplets from a cough or sneeze in the eyes, nose or mouth are contagious. Simply touching an infected surface could put your little ones at risk.
If Your Child Gets Sick
- Keep your children home and limit their contact with others as much as possible. Kids should stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone, without the use of medication.
- Teach your kids to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash everyone’s hands – including moms and dads!
- Remind your kids to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible so that they do not spread germs.
- Flu viruses can potentially remain alive for up to 48 hours, so clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that might be contaminated by using antibacterial wipes and sprays.
The flu can be dangerous, resulting in hospitalization and even death. If you encounter an emergency, call 9-1-1 and do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician with any health concerns regarding your children.
by Carmela Sosa, MD, FAAP
Medical Director, Primary Care
Valley Children’s Healthcare
This article originally appeared in the November edition of Central California Parent Magazine.