Like clockwork, children head back to school only to be bombarded with a host of different bacteria and viruses, including the flu. The increase in cold-weather sickness could be because children are getting less vitamin D due to the lack of sunlight and more time spent indoors. Another possibility is that colder weather pushes people inside where they can more easily spread the disease. Whatever the cause may be, kids can’t avoid school or near-constant exposure to germs from their peers, so children must find other ways to combat becoming ill with flu.
Risks and How to Mitigate Them
Children under five are more susceptible to catching flu than anyone else. The CDC estimates that since 2010, from 7,000 to 26,000 children under the age of five have been hospitalized each year due to flu-related illnesses. The most common complications that occur as a result of flu include pneumonia, dehydration and sinus infections. Even if no complications arise, flu is enough of a nuisance to disrupt school, work and everyday life.
School-aged children tend to pass the flu around rapidly as they commonly share school supplies, food, drinks and a bevy of germ-ridden belongings. Sharing might be caring, but teaching your child to protect themselves and others by not sharing straws, cups and utensils is important, this time of year especially.
Teach them to wash their hands before and after eating in order to prevent the spread of viruses that cause flu and other illnesses. Since students are typically in close quarters in the classroom, demonstrate how to cover your mouth when coughing along with the importance of washing your hands before touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If your child shows any symptoms of flu, it’s best to keep him home from school so he can rest.
The CDC recommends that anyone with symptoms of the flu should stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever breaks. Keeping kids home from school when they’re ill also protects other students and teachers from becoming infected, which can shorten the circulation time of the virus in your child’s school.
The Flu Shot is Your Yearly Protection
The best way to keep your child safe from contracting flu this season is to make sure she receives her yearly flu vaccination. Any child over the age of six months is eligible to receive the flu vaccine. This year, medical professionals are not recommending the nasal spray for the second year in a row because they don’t expect it to be nearly as effective as the actual vaccine for protection against viruses that will be in circulation. Since the flu shot requires about two weeks after the time of vaccination for your body to build up sufficient antibodies to protect you from the live virus, now is the best time to receive the vaccine.
It’s important to remember that since the flu vaccination contains a deadened version of the virus, it’s not possible to contract the virus from the vaccine itself. If vaccinated, it’s still possible that your child will catch the flu virus (though the chances are reduced), but her symptoms will be lessened. If your child has an allergy to chicken eggs or has had a previous reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, talk with your doctor about other preventive options available to your child.
One or Two Doses of the Flu Shot?
Depending on circumstances, children under the age of nine may require two doses of the flu vaccination. If your child is under nine years old and has never received a flu vaccine, he will require two doses. Your child may also need two doses if he’s only received one flu vaccine before in his lifetime prior to July 1, 2017. It’s best to begin this process as early as possible, so speak to your local certified immunizer or medical professional to schedule an appointment for your child as soon as possible. Flu vaccines require no copay with health insurance.