Jennifer Marr, D.N.P.
Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine (Children)
Speaking of HealthQ&A: Constipation in childrenMay 01, 2018
With cold and flu season here, I have some helpful updates and reminders for parents to be aware of, especially with the holidays approaching.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the influenza immunization in children 6 months and older to protect themselves, as well as their friends and family members, from the virus. There are two options available — the flu shot or nasal mist — which your family can use to prevent complications from the flu virus, such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis. The influenza vaccine is safe to administer to your child. The flu shot does not cause the flu, but side effects can occur the first one to two days, and include mild soreness where the shot was administered and a mild fever or aching.
The virus can be found in your child's nose and throat. The virus can come from anyone. This can spread by kissing, touching, holding hands, touching toys, doorknobs or the refrigerator handle of other infected people. The germs can stay on surfaces for many hours or spread through the air when a person coughs or sneezes.
The influenza virus can change from year to year. Therefore, people do not stay immunized for more than a season. It is important to get the flu shot each year to stay immunized throughout the flu season, which runs November to April. The flu shot is the most effective means of preventing influenza and its complications.
We recommend being honest with your child that an appointment will include a shot. This can be scary for a child, but children do best when they know what to expect. The nurses in the clinic have different options to help with any discomfort to include a bee-shaped device (vibrates to distract your child and uses an ice pack for numbing up skin), pain ease spray, numbing cream and oral sugar solution for infants.
In addition to being honest with kids about needing a shot, bringing something to distract your child may be helpful, like a favorite video that can be pulled up on your phone.
While I don’t always recommend a treat after the flu shot appointment, depending on the age of the child, an incentive — like ice cream after the appointment — can work.
Our nursing staff is skilled at making kids feel secure and having parents part of the process. Within a couple of hours of this little poke, they will have forgotten all about it.
When does the flu hit?
Traditionally, flu season peaks in February, with December being the second most common peak month, followed by March. This is why it often feels like flu season drags on, and many people continue to catch and spread the influenza virus.
Healthy kids can bounce back faster than adults, but because kids are in day care or school, they often get sick back to back. While this may build their immune system, it can be really hard on families.
To stay as healthy as possible, I recommend families maintain healthy habits, including hand-washing, getting plenty of sleep and eating well — in addition to the flu shot — to help prevent getting sick.
This especially is important for certain populations, including infants and young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, such as individuals being treated with chemotherapy or an organ transplant. These groups are at higher risk for flu-related complications.
There is no reason not to get the flu vaccine unless your provider recommends against it. Otherwise, the benefits of the flu vaccine far outweigh the risk of serious illness.
Tips for avoiding the flu
- The simplest thing you can do is wash your hands and teach your kids to do the same. Wash hands thoroughly and frequently with warm water and soap. Do this before leaving the bathroom, eating or touching your face. A good rule of thumb is to wash hands for 20 seconds — about as long as it takes to sing the ABCs. Learn how to clean up your hand-washing skills.
- Cover your cough with the crook of your elbow, and teach your kids to do the same.
- Stay home from work or school if you’re ill.
- Keep vaccines current for you and your family. Read more about protecting your child with immunizations.
Learn more about influenza prevention and treatment.