As parents, teachers, and most adults know, children have a way of picking up colds and other illnesses at school. As flu season approaches, it becomes even more important to teach kids how to stay healthy. While the number one way to prevent the flu is to make sure your child gets his or her flu shot, proper and consistent hand washing is one of the easiest ways to also help prevent the spread of influenza. Kids don’t always listen when you tell them to wash their hands, but it’s a message worth repeating. When your children come into contact with germs or viruses such as the flu, they can unknowingly become infected simply by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. Once infected, it is usually only a matter of time before the whole family gets sick as well.
Germs can be spread or transmitted in many ways, including:
- touching dirty hands or contaminated surfaces, such as doorknobs, desks, or books
- sharing objects such as utensils, cups, or bottles
- through droplets released during a cough or a sneeze
- through contact with a sick person’s body fluids
Teach Good Health Habits
To minimize the germs passed around your family, and to protect yourself from the flu this season, make frequent hand washing a rule for everyone, especially:
- before eating
- after using the bathroom
- after cleaning the house
- after touching animals, including family pets
- before and after visiting any sick friends or relatives
- after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- after being outside (playing, walking the dog, etc.)
You can even show your children how to get rid of germs by taking these steps when washing your hands together so they learn how important this good habit is:
- Wet hands with warm water and apply soap, making sure the water isn’t too hot for little hands.
- Rub hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds, covering all surfaces of the hands and giving extra attention to under the fingernails and between the fingers where uninvited germs like to hang out. (For younger children who may rush hand washing, have them sing a short song such as “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat,” or “Happy Birthday”, which will ensure they wash for at least 20 seconds.)
- Rinse hands with water.
- Dry thoroughly with a clean, disposable towel.
- Use towel to turn off faucet.
Parents can reinforce their children’s hand-washing habits by using tools such as The Scrub Club®. The Scrub Club® is a collaborative effort between the American Red Cross and NSF International (NSF) to help protect public health by teaching children the importance of proper and consistent hand washing to help fight germs and prevent illnesses like the flu. The interactive Web site offers free educational materials, music, games, and cartoon “Webisodes” to help raise awareness about the benefits of hand washing.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that everyone receive their flu shot this year as the best way to prevent the flu, it is important not to underestimate the power of hand washing in helping to stop the spread of influenza. Make it a fun experience for your kids. The few seconds you spend at the kitchen or bathroom sink could save you trips to the doctor’s office this flu season.
To find a flu shot clinic near you or to learn more about how you can protect yourself and your family this flu season, visit info.findaflushot.com.
Each year, otherwise healthy children die from the flu. Since 2003, reports of influenza-related pediatric deaths to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have ranged from 46 to 153 annually and last year’s H1N1 pandemic caused over 340 deaths in children. Children under the age of two have the highest risk of severe flu complications and every year, an average of 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized from influenza complications.1 Don’t let your child be one of these statistics! Protect your child from this very preventable illness with a flu vaccine.
Why Flu Vaccination Matters: Personal Stories from Families Affected by Flu
Watch more powerful stories from Families Fighting Flu.
The seasonal flu vaccine is approved for children who are at least six months old. Unfortunately, children under six months are also at a greater risk for developing serious complications due to the flu. The best way to protect children less than six months is to make sure that everyone living in the same household gets a flu shot.
Other pediatric groups at an increased risk for serious flu-related complications include children six months to five years and children six months and older with chronic health problems, such as:
- asthma or other problems of the lungs;
- immune suppression;
- chronic kidney disease;
- heart disease;
- sickle cell anemia; or
- long-term aspirin therapy;
- any condition that can reduce lung function (cognitive dysfunction, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders, or other neuromuscular disorders). 1
Children should be vaccinated yearly, ideally as soon as the vaccine becomes available. The CDC recommends that some children receive two doses instead of one. To see what is recommended for your child, please consult this chart.
The flu is a very serious illness and is more dangerous than the common cold for children. It is important for both you and your child to receive a flu shot every year in order to remain protected. For more flu updates, click here.
To find a flu shot clinic near you, use our online locator.
Be sure to remind your family and friends to get their flu shots too by sending them a free e-card!
Most people would agree- the flu is not fun. Period. High fevers, chills, headaches, extreme exhaustion, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches….yes… these symptoms of the flu do not add up to a good time. They can be even more intense and dangerous to you if you are expecting this flu season.
Why is the flu more dangerous for pregnant women?
While catching the flu during pregnancy rarely causes birth defects, pregnancy puts extra stress on your heart and lungs and can also affect your immune system. These factors increase the risk not only of getting the flu but of developing serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia and respiratory distress[i]. As a result, flu complications may lead to miscarriage, premature labor or other pregnancy complications[ii].
What’s the best way to prevent the flu during pregnancy?
To prevent the flu, get vaccinated. A flu vaccine is the number one way to prevent the flu. Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but if for some reason you are not able to receive your vaccine during that time period, getting vaccinated in December is still better than not getting vaccinated at all.
Is the flu shot safe during pregnancy or if I’ve recently given birth?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Medical Association (AMA), American Nurses Association (ANA), March of Dimes, and several other professional organizations are recommending flu shots for pregnant and postpartum patients during flu season — typically November through January or even later. The only exception is pregnant women who are allergic to eggs, since egg products are used to make the vaccine. When you get your flu shot, be sure to request the injectable flu shot and not the nasal spray vaccine. The flu shot is made from an inactive virus, so it’s safe for both mother and baby. The nasal spray vaccine is made from a live attenuated virus, and is currently contraindicated for pregnant women. While the flu shot does not contain the live virus and cannot give you the flu, some women may experience fatigue and muscle aches due to their immune system responding to the vaccine. In addition, the flu shot is also safe while breastfeeding. It cannot cause you or your nursing baby to get sick.
Why should I get a flu shot?
The main reason to get your shot, as mentioned earlier, is that you don’t want to get the flu while you are pregnant as there would be a higher risk of flu complications, both for yourself and your baby. Also, by getting your flu shot, you will decrease the chances your new baby will get sick once he or she is born. This is because your baby will experience the benefits of the antibodies from the vaccine that your body creates and transfers, providing him or her with added protection from getting the flu. This is important because children under six months of age can not get a flu shot.
After all, if you don’t get your flu shot, there is a higher possibility that you can get sick with the flu and then pass the infection on to your new baby. For this same reason, everyone in your household, and anyone who may care for a newborn, should also be vaccinated. Remember that anyone over 6 months of age can get a flu shot each year. By getting vaccinated, your entire family will be able to help protect your unborn baby because he or she will be too young to receive the vaccine at birth. This works because of the concept of herd immunity. Herd immunity basically means that if most of the people you are surrounded by are immune to an infection and unable to get sick, then there are fewer people around who can infect you, making it less likely for disease to spread, even if you aren’t immune to the infection yourself[iii].
Are there any other steps I can take to avoid getting the flu?
Yes. In addition to getting the flu shot, there are several additional steps you can take to protect yourself from the flu this season. Learn how you can help stop the spread of germs.
What do I do if I think I have the flu?
If you are pregnant and experiencing flu-like symptoms, pay attention to your body. Not all over the counter cold and flu medications are safe to take during pregnancy, so before taking anything, it is best to call your health care provider right away.
How do I find a location to get my flu shot?
Visit info.findaflushot.com, enter a zip code, and receive information about clinics scheduled in your area.
This flu season, many medical experts warn of flu “complacency”; health authorities are urging all to stay vigilant in receiving their flu shots.
In the wake of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, many perceive this flu season as less threatening than last year’s, however, this is simply not the case. This year, more than ever, it is important to get your flu shot for many reasons. We once again have returned to the convenience of a one-dose flu vaccine for everyone over the age of nine*, which will protect against a return of the H1N1 flu strain as well as two other flu types.
One population in particular that is considered high risk and is encouraged to get their flu shot is pregnant women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from flu as well as hospitalizations and even death. Pregnant woman with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery.”
The CDC, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Medical Association, and eight other medical groups all have expressed the importance of vaccination to pregnant women[i]. While many women are reluctant to take medications during their pregnancies, there are some important things to keep in mind if you are expecting this flu season[ii]:
- The flu shot is safe during all trimesters of pregnancy.
- Pregnant women should avoid the nasal spray vaccine.
- New moms that are breastfeeding can choose either the shot or nasal spray forms of the vaccine.
- The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu.
- Early treatment is important for pregnant women- If you get sick with flu-like symptoms call your doctor right away.
If you are expecting, getting your flu shot will protect your health as well as the health of your unborn baby and will even protect the baby after birth too.
Stay healthy this flu season and remind your loved ones to get vaccinated.
*Download a chart to learn dosage recommendations for children age 6 months through 8 years
It’s back to school time again, where every fall, kids return to or start school for the first time. This marks a time in a child’s life to meet new friends and teachers, and experience new and exciting life events.
With all the excitement and anticipation of starting a new school year comes the increased exposure to germs and illnesses, including influenza. This not only affects children, faculty, and staff, but it can also affect the overall educational experience.
In fact, 38 million school days are lost each year due to the flu. Children can be sick with the flu for a week or more, which may cause them to miss school, have a negative impact on their education, and even lower the average daily attendance of a school.
So what’s the best defense against the flu this fall? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that the single best way to prevent influenza is to get the flu vaccine every year. In fact, the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive a flu shot. Maxim Health Systems offers thousands of flu clinics across the country each and every year; search for a clinic in your area today- you don’t want to miss the opportunity to get both yourself and your children vaccinated this year (Maxim’s flu clinic locator provides clinic locations that serve ages 4 and older – contact us with questions about where to receive a flu shot for children 6 months to 4 years).
In addition to the flu vaccine, there are other ways to protect your child from the flu as they head back to school this year, including:
- Explain how the flu is spread and where they can catch the flu
- Teach your children to wash their hands using soap and water for 20 seconds or more
- Share with your child how to sneeze and cough into the crux of their elbow to help keep germs off of their hands
- Let them know that it is important to talk to you when they are feeling ill to help keep everyone healthy
Check out our blog from earlier this month that highlights more helpful tips for protecting your child from the flu.
You can also read our updated flu report for regional and national news/trends regarding the flu this season.
Going back to school is an exciting time in both a child’s and parent’s life. Here’s to a happy and healthy school year!
National Center for Health Statistics
You can’t be with your kids all the time. So, as they go off to school this fall, it is important you prepare them with the knowledge of how to help protect themselves from the flu.
The Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) is a great resource for creating talking points to chat with your kids about the upcoming flu season. Prevention is the key to helping your child stay healthy and safe during the flu season. Some tips from the CNMC include:
- Find out what they know
- Asking the question of what they know about the flu is the first step
- Explain the facts
- Explain how the flu is spread
- Explain what the flu is
- Explain where they can catch the flu
- Explain how doctors and nurses are there to help
- Talk about hygiene
- Teach your children to wash their hands using soap and water for 20 seconds or more
- Provide them with a small portable hand sanitizer and explain when to use it
- Teach your children to cough and sneeze into their elbow or tissue like Elmo
- Teach them that it is important to talk to you when they are feeling ill to help keep everyone healthy
- Talk to them about the importance of getting vaccinated
- Explain how a vaccine works
- Tell your child how millions of people get vaccinated and how it keeps everyone safe
- If your child gets sick
- It is important to explain the recovery process and how long it takes
- Tell them why you are taking their temperature and giving them medicine
Finally, the two most important tips are to stay informed and lead by example. Don’t just tell your child how to stay healthy, but show them by getting your flu shot and using the proper coughing and sneezing techniques.
about friends getting sick can be a scary time for children. Help them stay informed and let them know that chances of getting sick are minimized if you are prepared.
For the first time ever, the CDC recommends that all people age six months and older receive a flu shot. This year’s vaccine combines strains of seasonal flu and H1N1. Everyone over the age of nine years old will need only one dose of the vaccine. However, if a child six months through eight years old received at least one H1N1 vaccine last year, he/she should receive only one seasonal vaccine this year, provided he/she has had two seasonal shots in a previous season. To learn more about vaccination recommendations for children ages six months through eight years of age, download the chart below, which shows the decision-making process on dosage for this age range.