The leaves are getting brown. The air is getting crisp. The kids are getting sick. It must be fall!
While allergies and colds in children may be inevitable once the seasons change, your children can dodge the flu, a much more serious illness, with some preventive measures on your part.
The first line of defense against the flu is immunization. According to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all children between the ages of 6 months and 19 years should get the flu vaccination. Get started on vaccinating your children as early in the season as possible, especially if this is your child’s first exposure to the vaccine. According to Flu.gov, a government site dedicated to flu information, a child needs two doses of the vaccine for it to be effective. The doses must be 28 days apart, and the vaccine is considered ineffective if the second dose is not administered.
In addition to the vaccine, educating your children about proper hygiene routines can minimize exposure to the flu virus. Teach your children to wash their hands before meals and after coughing, wiping their noses or sneezing. In fact, a child should wash her hands before touching any of the key body entry points for viruses including the mouth, eyes and nose. Handwashing should last for at least 15 seconds to kill germs effectively. The CDC suggests singing Happy Birthday twice during handwashing to ensure the correct amount of scrubbing.
If your child is old enough, supply him with a small bottle of alcohol-based hand cleaner to use when soap and water are not available. Remind him that he should not stop rubbing his hands until the solution is completely dry.
The education shouldn’t end with your kids. Teach yourself the early warning signs of the flu, such as fatigue and fever, and be on the look out for these symptoms in your children and others.
Do your best to separate your children from anyone who is displaying flu-like symptoms; the virus is highly contagious. Also, extend this information to your children’s caretakers and teachers prior to flu season. Be sure anyone who regularly interacts with your children knows that she should avoid interaction with your children at the first sign of the flu.
In your home, use disinfectants specifically labeled to combat viruses on frequently touched areas and items, such as bathrooms, handrails and favorite toys, at least daily. The CDC suggests a simple solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach mixed with 1 gallon of cool water as a disinfectant. Of course, keep all disinfectant solutions out of children’s reach when not in use.
Follow these guidelines for your children, and you’ll not only be helping their health, but keeping your entire family as flu-free as possible.