Many parents worry about kids getting the flu, and rightly so. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that 38 million school days are missed annually due to the flu. To learn more about how to keep kids healthy, we spoke with Dr. Sandy Arnold, chief of infectious diseases at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
Consider a flu shot. “The best way to keep your family from getting the flu is to have everyone vaccinated every year,” notes Dr. Arnold. This is particularly true if you have children under 6 months of age, since they are too young to be vaccinated. This is important because, “Children under 5 are likely to need medical care for influenza infection, and children under 2 ... are at highest risk for severe influenza infection requiring hospitalization. Flu vaccinations are the only way to protect against this.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends healthy children ages 2 to 8 receive the nasal spray vaccine if available. Know that receiving the vaccine will not cause the flu. A vaccine shortage is also not anticipated. Arnold assures us an ample supply — between 151 to 159 million doses — is available.
Others at high risk for flu complications include pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma or COPD. These individuals should be vaccinated as well, according to the CDC.
WASH YOUR HANDS. Most of us rarely wash our hands effectively. Here’s the best practice:
- Wet hands with warm water.
- Lather backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails with soap.
- Scrub for 20 seconds, or two rounds of the “Happy Birthday” song.
- Dry hands with a clean towel.
When to wash. Before eating, before and after preparing food, when caring for someone sick, when treating cuts and wounds. Also after toilet use, changing diapers, and coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
Use hand sanitizer. When you don’t have immediate access to soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60 percent alcohol can greatly reduce germs. Read the label to determine how much to use and rub hands together covering the same areas you would wash with soap and water until hands are dry. Sanitizers do not kill all types of germs, so follow up with soap and water as soon as possible.
Practice cough etiquette. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Use the crook of your arm when a tissue is not available. Don’t forget to turn your face away from bystanders. Don’t tuck germ-filled tissues in your pocket, either; throw them into a wastebasket or. better, flush them away. Follow up with a good hand washing.
Stay home when sick. To help prevent the spread of germs, keep sick children and adults home. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue. Even if flu is not the problem, if you have a fever of 100 degrees or greater, stay home until 24 hours have passed fever-free (without the use of medications).
Other preventive measures. Remember to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to reduce the chances of introducing germs into your system. It is also advisable to regularly disinfect surfaces such as doorknobs, faucets, toilets, countertops, and tech devices, especially when a family member is sick.