Protecting Children From the Flu

  • Children’s systems are a lot more delicate than adults’. Each year, typically, more than 20,000 children younger than five years old will be hospitalized because of the flu. There are, however, simple steps a parent can take to lower the risk that their children will get sick.


    What can you do to prevent flu from spreading?


    Get a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a flu shot for everyone over the age of six months. This can be the first line of defense against certain flu strains. This is especially true for children with a history of long-term health conditions or complications. They may have decreased immune systems that are not as strong at fighting off the flu.

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    Even if you are pregnant or are expecting during the next few months, you should still get vaccinated. The flu shot has been shown to give some protection to the baby that may carry over for a few months after birth.


    Get a nasal spray vaccine. Children between two and eight years old can receive the vaccination in the form of a nasal spray that may work better than a traditional shot. However, these sprays can be given only to healthy children, aren’t always available and cannot be given to anyone outside of this age range. It’s best to check with your local health care provider for availability.


    Ask any caregivers or babysitters if they have been vaccinated as well. The flu can be spread by droplets formed when we talk, sneeze, or cough. So anyone in close contact with your child can also spread germs.



    How can you protect your child at school?


    One of the most essential things to instruct children to do is wash their hands. Washing with an antibacterial soap or alcohol-based hand rub can significantly reduce the spread of germs. The CDC suggests scrubbing for as long as it takes to sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice, or about 25 seconds, before rinsing.


    Although it’s advised that children limit contact with someone who is sick, telling your child to stay away from his/her friends at school may be a challenge. Instead, teach them not to touch his/her eyes, nose, or mouth too much during the day. This will help limit any germs they pick up from reaching sensitive areas that can make them sick.


    What if my child is already sick?

    Early flu symptoms are often similar to a common cold: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose. But not all who get the flu will have a fever, so it’s important to tell the difference by also looking out for these symptoms:

    • headache
    • chills
    • body ache
    • fatigue

    Talk to your doctor at the onset of symptoms or if you become concerned, to ensure the most rapid recovery and avoid complications. The flu shot and antibiotics will not help at this stage. Your doctor may instead prescribe antiviral drugs.  


    Keep sick children home. Children with the flu can remain contagious anywhere from five to seven days after getting sick, and those with weakened immune systems can be contagious for even longer. The CDC suggests a child can go back to school 24 hours after the fever is gone, which can be one to two days.


Published On: January 13, 2015