How to Protect Your Child from the Flu

Children are often in the line of fire when flu season hits, but there are a few things that parents can do to help protect their children from catching the flu.

First, it’s important to understand the difference between the common cold and the flu. The distinction between the two is essentially the intensity of symptoms. The flu is a much more intense version of the cold and has a sudden onset with all/most symptoms hitting you at once. A cold generally has a more gradual onset – starts with a tickle in the throat for a day, then a runny nose the next day, then coughing – lingering for about 10 days.

A common mistake is assuming your child has a cold when it’s really the flu. Those who have the flu typically feel most, if not all of these symptoms:

  • Chills (feeling hot and then cold)
  • Fever over 100.4
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
How to Protect Your Child from the Flu

The flu is passed from one person to the next person quite rapidly. However, we can decrease the spreading of germs if we follow a few important steps.

Proper Hand Wash

Children frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it and germs often seep in. The key to decreasing the spread of germs is to make sure your child is washing their hands properly and frequently. The proper way to hand wash is to teach your child to lather both front and back of their hands, between their fingers, and under their nails with soap. Be sure they are rubbing their hands with the soap for at least 20 seconds, before rinsing them. Keep in mind if your child is not following these steps and is just putting a little amount of soap, quickly rubbing and rinsing, they are technically not removing all the germs from their hands.

If Your Child is Sick, Keep Them Home

If you think your child is coming down with a cold or the flu, have them stay home from school or daycare so that they don’t infect other kids and teachers.

It’s important to not give your child a fever-reducing medication and then send them to school as they are still contagious until they are fever-free for 24 hours. However, watch your child’s reaction to a fever. If you give your child Tylenol or Motrin, and the fever calms down, he or she should perk up and begin to act normal again. On the other hand, if the fever has reduced but your child is still lethargic, it is essential to take them to a doctor immediately.

Teach Your Child How to Cover Their Mouth & Nose

Practice respiratory etiquette with your child by teaching them to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If they don’t have a tissue handy, teach them to cough or sneeze into their elbow, not into their hands as this will more effectively help prevent the virus from spreading.

child getting a flu shot

Clean Frequently Touched Surfaces & Objects

Use a household disinfectant or soap and water to clean any surfaces, such as door handles and toys to decrease the spread of germs in the household.

Scientific evidence shows that the flu virus survives best in low-humidity environments, which is one of the reasons why it spreads in winter when the moisture level in the indoor air is down. Therefore, a humidifier in your home may help kill off the flu virus and germs.

Flu Shot

The flu vaccine, which takes approximately 7-10 days to begin working, essentially stimulates the immune system so that it makes antibodies that, when exposed to the virus, can kill the virus without antiviral medication. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approves the flu vaccine for children 6 months and older.

According to the CDC, the flu is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe illness and can result in hospitalization or even death. During the 2017-2018 flu season, 185 flu-associated deaths in children were reported to the CDC. That is the highest number since the 2004-2005 flu season when flu-associated deaths in people younger than 18 years old became nationally reportable.

Although flu season usually peaks between December and February, it can last into April, so it’s crucial to protect your children from contacting it.

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