The arrival of spring will soon bring warmer temperatures and blossoming flowers, but it does not mark the end of flu season. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season typically begins in late fall and does not end until April or May. In 2018 alone, approximately 49 million individuals contracted influenza in the United States, including millions of children.
Even as outdoor activities increase, parents must remember that the flu continues to spread, placing their children at risk. Taking preventative steps to mitigate sickness protects children and adults. By remaining mindful of daily health habits, the likelihood of flu exposure decreases.
There are several ways to protect your child from getting the flu:
It’s not too late to get a flu shot. The most important and effective protection against the flu is getting a flu vaccination at your local health provider or pharmacy. The CDC recommends all children, age 6 months and older, receive their annual flu vaccine. While a yearly flu shot may not always work against the dominant viral strain, experts still emphasize that vaccination offers protection, at minimum reducing the severity of the illness for an infected child.
Steer clear of sick people. People with the flu are highly contagious, capable of spreading it to others from as far as six feet away. An infected person can spread the flu virus one day prior to exhibiting symptoms and up to a week after becoming sick. An activity as mundane as touching a surface, if contaminated, can spread the virus. During flu season, it is critical to limit or prevent your child’s contact with sick people. It is also important for your child to stay home if sick. The best approach is encouraging children to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth, which is how viruses enter the body.
Wash your hands often and correctly. To kill bacteria, it is best to scrub hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Lather the backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails. If soap and water are unavailable, then an alcohol-based sanitizer will help kill germs.
Follow the doctor’s orders. If your child gets the flu, your provider may prescribe an antiviral drug, such as Tamiflu, for treatment. Antiviral drugs typically decrease the intensity of a virus or shorten the length of illness, especially if taken after symptoms first emerge. As your child recuperates, over-the-counter medications can make the intensity of symptoms milder.
These simple steps are important to preventing the flu. Maintaining a clean environment, disinfecting surfaces, and taking active measures to avoid spreading germs can protect your child from illness. Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted an early spring this year, but flu season is far from over.