Protecting Your Child From the Flu

Flu season is back – and the last one was a doozy. Here's what parents need to know about flu symptoms in kids and protecting your child from the flu.

Protecting your child from the flu

Devise your battle plan, moms and dads. Flu season is upon us, which means gearing up to ensure you’re protecting your child from the flu this year. And it’s an important children’s health issue.

After all, last year’s flu season was particularly bad – with cases cropping up all over the country causing 20 pediatric deaths, including one here in Michigan.

Flu season typically starts as early as October and can last through May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018-19 flu FAQs, with a peak between December and February. And while it’s “not possible to predict what this flu season will be like,” the CDC notes, it’s very possible to be prepared – and it’s highly encouraged.

That most often means a visit to your pharmacy or pediatrician. They’re geared up for the fight, too, and armed with the latest vaccinations.

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Yet it takes a total of two weeks for the influenza vaccination to kick in and start doing its job, the CDC reports, meaning timing for the vaccination and keeping your kid healthy in the interim is important.

What are the vaccination options? Is there anything you can do at home to prevent the spread of the flu this year? Here are the weapons you’ll need to ward off the virus this year.

Flu symptoms in children

A person who has the seasonal flu will begin showing signs abruptly, and they usually worsen during the first three days, WebMD says.

The highly contagious virus is easily spread among children because they spend a lot of time cooped up in classrooms sharing space, toys and various classroom objects. According to WebMD, your child might display the following symptoms if he or she has the flu:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry cough
  • Vomiting
  • Belly pain
  • Body aches and headaches
  • Chills paired with a high fever

Defend your family with vaccinations

If that doesn’t sound like fun, there are some things you can do. The top tactic in protecting your child from the flu? Get a vaccination.

An annual flu shot is approved and recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older, the CDC notes, and has been since 2010. There have been some changes this year, the CDC adds, to “better match circulating viruses.”

This time, vaccines will protect against the three or four viruses – depending on whether the trivalent or quadrivalent version is given. The main trio includes a vaccine against a virus strain that was actually first identified here in Michigan, which the CDC formally calls the A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus.

Various flu vaccine options are available this year. The CDC notes that “any licensed age-appropriate flu vaccine” is appropriate with “no preference” given to one over another. Some kids ages 6 months to 8 years will require two doses of vaccine, spaced at least four weeks apart, the CDC adds. Check with your pediatrician to see if your child is affected.

For kids under 6 months? They’re at “high risk of serious flu complications,” the CDC reports, but too young for the vaccine. Protecting these children is crucial, which means getting a flu shot yourself. Women who are pregnant also should be vaccinated.

And when should the family take a trip to the pharmacy or doctor’s office? As soon as the vaccine is available, the CDC says.

To find a vaccination location and to see if there are reported cases of the flu nearby, visit Flu Near You.

Prevent the spread of the flu at home

It is possible to get the flu regardless of vaccination, the CDC warns. But that doesn’t mean it’s a losing battle. There are natural ways to prevent illness, too.

Some strategies to get the little ones in the practice include washing hands and getting aerobic exercise regularly, WebMD suggests.

Other techniques WebMD recommends include sneezing and coughing inside of your elbow instead of the hands, not touching your face and taking time to relax daily.

If your child already has the flu, read up on this advice on how to fight the illness at home.

Did you find these fast facts about the flu and how to prevent it in your family helpful? Let us know in the comments. 

This post was originally published in 2012 and is updated regularly. 

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