Protecting Your Child From the Flu

Flu season is back. Here's what parents need to know about flu symptoms in children and how to keep their kids healthy.

Devise your battle plan, moms and dads. Flu season is here and it’s particularly bad this year – 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. That means pharmacies and doctors’ offices are geared up for the fight, too, and are armed with vaccinations.

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 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 to prevent the flu. No. 1? Get a vaccination.

The shot-form of the vaccine – a common route – is approved for use in people 6 months and older, the CDC says. For the 2017-18 flu season, there are two forms of vaccine available: the quadrivalent and the trivalent, which are both inactive vaccines as live vaccines are not recommended this year.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older – especially women who are pregnant, people who are 65 and older and those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes – get vaccinated, and do so every year.

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

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 is to sneeze and cough inside of your elbow instead of the hands, don’t touch your face and 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.