You’ve probably seen the recent headlines that we’re facing a major flu epidemic. Unfortunately, this isn’t just media hype; this year’s flu is particularly harsh. For the first time ever, the CDC has announced “widespread [flu] activity in all of the continental U.S.” Since October, the CDC has identified approximately 60,000 positive samples of the flu, and about every 23 in 100,000 people have been hospitalized. While that may seem small, it’s still considered epidemic proportions by the CDC. Additionally, this season has already seen 20 pediatric flu-related deaths. Children are particularly susceptible, and that’s why it’s important to know how to prevent your child from contracting the virus.
Symptoms Of The Flu
It can be hard to distinguish between flu symptoms and a regular head cold, as they both can include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle or body aches, headache and fatigue. If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s best to have a doctor see them as soon as possible. While there’s no “cure” for the flu, your pediatrician may be able to provide Tamiflu or other antiviral medications that can shorten the length of your child’s sickness as well as reduce the symptom’s severity.
Get Your Child Vaccinated
While we’re at peak infections in mid-winter, the flu season can even extend into early Spring, so it’s still a good idea to get the vaccine. While the vaccine isn’t foolproof, it is an essential step to limiting the spread of the disease. The flu vaccine can be given to children six months or older, so everyone in your family who can get it should get it. That will also help protect infants younger than six months against contracting the virus.
Teach “Coughing Etiquette” And Good Hygiene
Be sure to teach your children to cover their mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing using a tissue (ideally), or at least their hand or elbow. If your child sneezes into their clothes, be sure to have them change. And make sure they wash their hands with warm soap and water afterwards! Flu germs can persist for up to 24 hours, so the more you and your child can do to reduce harmful germs, the safer everyone around you will be.
Keep Your Child At Home
Children under five are particularly susceptible to the flue, and the CDC recommends keeping sick children at home to prevent the spread to other children. They can be contagious as long as seven days after the first symptom appear, so even if it seems mild, it’s generally better to be safe.
Remember: by protecting your children from the flu, you’re actually helping to ensure that everyone stays as healthy as possible.