SILVER SPRING, January 11, 2013 ― With 42 states already reporting widespread infection, and seven more having heavy regional outbreaks, it looks like the flu is going to be hard to escape.
Children are especially susceptible to the flu and parents should be wary and vigilant against exposure.
Get a flu shot
Children or all ages, and as recommended by their pediatrician, as well as parents, should get the flu shot or nasal mist. It used to be that doctors recommended that only children and the elderly receive the shots, but now the CDC says that everyone should get it:
Who should get vaccinated? (Resource: CDC.gov)
Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine this season. It’s especially important for some people to get vaccinated. Those people include the following:
People who are at high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get sick with the flu. This includes People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
People 65 years and older.
People who live with or care for others who are high risk of developing serious complications
This includes household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
Different age groups have different shots available; it is important to advocate for yourself and your child and ask, “Is this the right shot for my child,” before it is administered. A common misconception about the flu shot is that you can “get” the flu from it. As the shot is made from dead virus, that cannot happen.
However, it does take about two weeks for the vaccine to take full effect, so if you are exposed before your body has had a chance to develop the immunity provided by the shot, you can still get sick.
It is still possible that you might get the flu even if you have a flu shot. Only a few strains of the flu are mixed into the vaccine each year. If you are exposed to a strain not included, you will not have protection from that strain, however, flu shot recipients who do get sick tend to have less severe symptoms and get over the disease more quickly.
Vaccine shortages are already cropping up. If your doctor’s office does not have it, keep searching. Check clinics, pharmacies, and urgent care centers.
Do not rely on the hospital emergency room to get your flu shot. Emergency rooms across the country are already dealing with overflow volumes of sick patients seeking treatment, and the already sick are hospitals’ top priority.
There are things you can do to keep yourself from contracting the flu, and help to keep you, and baby, from getting sick as well:
Wash your hands
Your hands come in contact with your face more times a day than you realize. Since the virus that causes the flu is spread through droplets when people sneeze, cough, or talk, make sure you are washing your hands throughout the day.
When should you wash your hands? (Resource: CDC.gov)
Before, during, and after preparing food
Before eating food
Before and after caring for someone who is sick
Before and after treating a cut or wound
After using the toilet
After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
After touching an animal or animal waste
After handling pet food or pet treats
After touching garbage
What is the right way to wash your hands? (Resource: CDC.gov
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
Rinse your hands well under running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Even if you are not usually vigilant about washing up before meals, make an extra effort to do so now.
Do not forget that infected people are contagious about a day before they start showing symptoms, so just because you think the hand that you just shook belongs to an healthy individual, it is not necessarily the truth.
Wash your sinuses and face
When you are washing your hands, also wash your face with a good soap (ladies may want to give up makeup for a while) and, asking your doctor if you have any sinus issues first, wash your sinuses with over the counter saline washes available in any pharmacy.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist for direction.
Replace toothbrush, linens, and pillowcases
If you get sick, replace your toothbrush as one step toward recovery, and once you start to feel better, get a new one. Change your pillowcases and linens frequently as well. Same for baby. New linens, new oral care items. Think, “how do I not reintroduce old germs?”
The flu virus can live on the surface of the things up to eight hours. With the propensity for little kids to put things in their mouths, disinfecting is especially important. Keep a tub of disinfecting wipes handy and wipe down your child’s toys after play.
Also wipe down anything else your hands may come into contact with: door handles, keyboards, telephones, refrigerator handles, alarm clocks, car seat buckles, steering wheels, and don’t forget the handles on shopping carts.
Get mini bottles of alcohol-based hand sanitizers to keep in your diaper bag. You can squirt a little on a tissue to wipe down surfaces that you and your little one may come into contact with.
Having the hand sanitizer easily available also allows you to clean your own hands frequently while in public to minimize exposure. Remember, you touch baby. Your hands need to be kept as germ free as possible.
This goes two ways. Try to limit the amount you are out, especially in big crowds. If your child goes to day care, this can be especially difficult, as day care centers are notorious breeding grounds of infection.
However, if you child goes to a group environment, ask the care providers and center managers what their disinfecting routine is and coach your child to clean his hands throughout the day.
Be firm about what is acceptable and what you expect from the day care personnel. From their washing hands to environment, particularly the bathroom, disinfection practices.
Play dates can be fun, and they give children who do not go to day care or pre-school a social outlet, but during flu season, they can spread disease. If you cannot bear to ask your little one to skip the fun, try hosting the play date. At least that way you know that everything is clean at the start of the day, and you can easily round everything up to disinfect afterward.
Ask everyone at the play date to sanitize their hands when they get there, and if any of the kids seem like they are sick, kindly apologize to the parent and ask them to take the sick child home.
If you or your child does get sick, remember everyone else out there. Keep your child home until he is well again. Contagious people spread the flu and the easiest way to prevent the spread of the flu is by limiting the number of people the ill come into contact with.
Check in with your doctor’s nursing staff before to alert them that your child is sick and follow their directions. Most important, stay home, get rest and drink plenty of fluids.
For the latest information on the flu check the Centers for Disease Control’s flu webpage
. It has the latest information on outbreaks, additional tips for preventing and dealing with the disease, and facts about the flu.
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