18 Jan Keeping Your Baby Healthy during Flu Season
Runny noses, sore throats, high fevers—flu season is upon us! People crowding indoors to escape the cold weather and kids going back to school creates prime conditions for the influenza virus to spread. Here are three tips that can help reduce the likelihood of your child catching the flu.
Make Sure to Get the Flu Shot
Most children don’t look forward to getting shots. However, the best way to protect your child against the seasonal flu is to make sure he or she gets the annual influenza vaccine, provided that your child is at least six months old. While the vaccine cannot guarantee that your child will be completely immune to the flu, it can shorten and lessen the severity of the illness if he or she does get sick. There are many misconceptions about the flu shot, and in fact, almost half of Americans believe that they don’t need the vaccine. Another common lie people are told is that the flu shot makes you sick. Though any immunizations can give you mild side effects, such as soreness at the site or a low-grade fever, you can’t “get the flu” from the flu shot!
The only flu shot available in the US currently is inactivated, meaning parts of a dead flu virus are used to give you protection in case you see the real-deal flu virus. I commonly tell people a joke when they are afraid of the flu shot: it’s like having a steering wheel, two tires, and a chassis…you have parts of a car, but you can’t drive it! That’s why the flu vaccine can’t give you the flu. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, research shows that flu vaccinations can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations in children and older adults by 74%. So have your child (and yourself) vaccinated this flu season!
The Importance of Washing Hands
Germs are everywhere. They’re on the table, on people, on pets, in the bathroom, in the kitchen—you can’t get away from them. And children, especially babies, often stick their curious hands in the dirtiest places and then proceed to wipe those same hands all over their eyes, nose, and mouth. Although it’s impossible to be germ free, encouraging your child to develop a habit of washing his or her hands regularly can help limit the transfer of viruses and bacteria.
Always wash your child’s hands:
- Before and after eating
- After coming home from school or playing outside
- After blowing the nose or coughing into the hands
Always wash your hands:
- Before and after preparing food
- After changing a diaper
- After wiping a runny nose or cleaning up after messes
Some “experts” (especially those on consumer-driven websites and on Facebook) believe exposing infants to germs helps them develop greater protection from other illnesses later in life. This is not true. To protect your children from catching the flu from others, consider enforcing a strict “no sick guests allowed” policy. That means telling friends and family to stay home and not visit if they are sick. Also make sure your child isn’t spending time with friends with the flu. Although, this cannot be prevented if your child’s classmates are sick, you can make sure your child doesn’t have playdates with friends with the flu. There are no long-term benefits in being exposed to sick people, so take reasonable precautions to lesson your child’s chances of getting sick this flu season.
For more information on the web, visit healthychildren.org or aap.org. If you have questions or would like to discuss any concerns you have regarding flu season, you can schedule an appointment with me, Dr. Kathryn Mandal, by calling 817-617-8600 or scheduling online at continuumtx.com.