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How to prevent the flu in children

Flu season is coming! We always hear the murmurs of the flu season coming in October and November, but it’s key that we pay attention and know what to look for with the flu. Here’s what you need to know about children and the flu.

Girl sneezing during flu season

Oh, the flu. It’s awful. The chills, the weakness, the lack of appetite. No one wants to deal with that. Good news, though: you don’t have to.

SheKnows recently caught up with Rachael Blumenthal D.O., a pediatrician with Good Night Pediatrics in the Phoenix area, to talk about the upcoming flu season and how families can escape it. Good Night Pediatrics is an all-night urgent care center for children with locations in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Here’s what Dr. Blumenthal told us.

What’s up for flu season 2011-2012?

There is one truism of every flu season: it’s absolutely unpredictable. The Centers for Disease Control says that the timing, severity and length of flu outbreaks vary widely because there are so many influencing factors.

Dr. Blumenthal says that there haven’t been any new strains of the flu found. “Vaccinations this year will include the most commonly predicted strains including the H1N1 Influenza A virus. No strain(s) in particular should cause extra concern because there are no novel strains. Therefore, severity of illnesses should not be any stronger than an average year,” says Dr. Blumenthal.

Taking precautions against the flu in children

Parents can prevent the flu, says Dr. Blumenthal. “Get your child 6 months and older their flu vaccine. Also get the adults in the household vaccinated to decrease the chances of household contacts getting anyone ill,” says Blumenthal.

She says that the flu shot is safe for most kids with egg allergies. “The CDC has even re-evaluated the use of the flu vaccine in persons with egg allergy — unless your child has a documented case of anaphylaxis from eggs, the amount of egg protein present in the flu vaccine is not enough to stimulate an allergic response,” says Dr. Blumenthal. Be sure to discuss concerns with your pediatrician.

Beyond the flu vaccine, you should also practice sanitary measures to prevent the spread of germs. “Encourage covering of coughs and sneezes. Hand washing and use of hand sanitizer is always important and should never be underestimated in its ability to stop the spread of germs,” says Dr. Blumenthal.

And if you or the kids have a fever? Stay home, she says.

5 Tips to keep the flu out of your child’s school >>

The flu versus the common cold

What makes the flu different than a common cold? We asked. “Influenza versus the common cold usually has a more rapid onset of symptoms (fine in the morning, sick that night) and more severe symptoms (higher fevers, more upper respiratory distress, more vomiting), as well as body aches, shakes and chills,” says Dr. Blumenthal.

More about the common cold vs. the flu >>

If your kids get the flu

But if you don’t escape the flu, see your child’s doctor. “If your child does show symptoms of influenza (fever above 100.4 and upper respiratory symptoms), have them seen by physician to determine the best course of medical treatment,” says Blumenthal.

More on the flu

How to protect yourself from the flu
7 Flu shot facts
Do you need a flu shot?

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