Children’s natural inclinations toward close interactions with one another and their failure to wash their hands often is one reason why influenza begins spreading when kids go back to school. The flu can be harmful to children, causing mild to severe fever, chills, cough, vomiting, and diarrhea. As flu season hits its peak in October, take steps to prevent your child from getting sick.
Visit a Flu Clinic
The number-one way to prevent the flu is to get your child immunized. The flu is a serious illness that can cause hospitalization and even death. The flu vaccine not only protects your child from the sickness but reduces the flu’s impact on your community. Vaccinating your child against the flu also gives you peace of mind that your child will be protected from some strains of the virus this year.
In previous years, the FluMist intranasal vaccine was available. However, we no longer recommend this form of the vaccine. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cited poor effectiveness for this vaccine over the last three years and recommends instead an inactivated flu vaccination. FluMist will not be available in our clinic.
Teach Your Child Proper Sanitation
Children are still learning how to maintain personal hygiene and are thus at a higher risk of catching the flu. Teach your child the proper hand-washing technique: with soap and warm water, scrubbing hands for at least 20 seconds. Children must wash their hands before and after meals and snacks, after going to the bathroom, and before and after hands-on activities.
A cough or a sneeze can easily spread the contagious flu virus through the air. Teach children to sneeze and cough into a tissue or the inside of their elbow. Sneezing and coughing into the hands is not effective unless the child’s hands are washed immediately afterward. Otherwise, children spread germs to everything and everyone they touch. Also, tell your child not to share cups or utensils with friends.
Take Care of Your Child’s Health
Boosting your child’s immune system is the best way to fend off the flu. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest – 10 to 11 hours per night for children ages 5–10, and more for younger children. Adequate sleep helps children recover faster from illnesses. Serve more fruits and vegetables and promote exercise as a family.
If your child is coming down with the flu, keep your child home from school to prevent spreading the disease. Call your pediatrician to determine if a visit is necessary.
When do I call the office?
We always want to see your child if you are concerned about your child’s illness, but most healthy school aged children who develop flu do not need to see the doctor. If your child has mild flu symptoms and you are wondering if you should schedule an appointment, look for these signs:
- Trouble breathing or very fast breathing
- Not drinking well
- Not urinating as much as usual- usually at least every 6-8 hours
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Being irritable even after their fever goes down
- Not waking up normally or interacting normally
- The fever goes down and flu symptoms get better, but then get worse again a day or two later.
Children at higher risk who have symptoms of influenza should consider seeing the doctor early in the illness. Children with chronic illness (i.e. asthma) or children 4 and younger, especially children under 2, are at higher risk from complications from influenza.