Q. What can I do to help my child avoid the flu?
A: With the lengthening of flu season this year, due to the presence of H1N1 (swine flu) must earlier than the usual seasonal flu, parents must take a proactive role in protecting and educating their children about the flu. Children are especially vulnerable to developing the flu, because their immune system is not fully developed and ready to fight off the disease. Children also spend a lot of time together with other children at school and daycare, and this puts them more at risk of spreading influenza to others.
You can take several steps to reduce the risk your child will be impacted by the flu. Begin by vaccinating your child in the fall. This year, vaccination is recommended against both the H1N1 influenza and the usual seasonal flu. Both influenza vaccines are safe and effective and should be given to healthy children ages six months through 18 years. Depending on your child's age, and whether or not he or she has been immunized against influenza in the past, he or she may require one or two immunizations against both flu strains this year. Good hygiene will also go a long ways to keeping the flu away from your child. Here are some simple actions the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you can take to prevent the spread of the flu.
- Cough and sneeze into a tissue. If you don't have time to get a tissue, bend your arm and sneeze or cough into it. Teach your children to do the same.
- Use tissues for wiping runny noses and to catch sneezes. Throw them in the trash after each use. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing frequently.
- Avoid kissing your child on or around the mouth or face when either of you are ill.
- Make sure everyone washes their hands before and after coming into close contact with someone with the flu. Everyone should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds.
- Don't let children share pacifiers, cups, spoons, forks, washcloths, or towels. Never share toothbrushes.
- Use paper cups in the bathroom and kitchen. Throw them in the trash after each use.
- Wash dishes, forks, and spoons in hot, soapy water or the dishwasher.
- Change cloth towels often and wash them in hot water.
- Wipe all surfaces, including toys, with a disinfectant or soap and hot water. Viruses can live for more than 30 minutes on doorknobs, toilet handles, countertops, and even toys.
- Keep children, particularly infants, away from secondhand tobacco smoke. Don't smoke around your children. Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke cough and wheeze more and have a harder time getting over the flu.
If you have questions about preventing the flu, contact your pediatrician or our team of specialists at Children's Hospital. Together we can ensure you and your child enjoy healthy winter.
Do You Have a Question?
To submit a question for Dr. Fete, please e-mail Dawn Thurnau