Children, together with the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases are at high risks of serious complications from flu. In the United States, it is estimated that more than 20,000 children below 5 years old are hospitalized for flu complications every year. The number of children who are brought to the doctors, emergency rooms or urgent care centers because of flu is much, much higher.
Complications resulting from flu for very young children include:
- Pneumonia – an illness where the lungs are infected and get inflamed
- Dehydration – when a child’s body loses substantial amount of water and salts, often from not enough water intake
- Aggravation of long-term medical conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, sinus problems, ear infections and encephalopathy or brain inflammation. Though rarely, complications from flu can lead to death.
Here are some pieces of advice to keep in mind to protect children from influenza:
Make sure your child gets flu vaccination every season.
The severity of flu depends on the season due to prevailing factors such as the type of flu viruses that are spreading and how well matched the available flu vaccines are to the flu viruses that are causing the influenza illness.
Children should get a flu shot or nasal spray vaccine every season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine is 62 percent effective in preventing children from getting the flu. While it cannot completely prevent the flu, vaccine can shorten the illness and make the symptoms milder, if the children get sick.
Teach children to practice good cough etiquette.
Inform children that flu germs can spread as far as six feet through sneezes and coughs. Teach them to cover their mouth and nose with a handkerchief or tissue when coughing and sneezing, then clean their hands afterward.
Discourage sick kids from visiting your children and keep them in their own room if they are sick. If the rest of the family is already sick with flu, keep the children who are well away from the virus by having them stay in their own room.
If flu is widespread in the community, avoid large crowds and social events such as going to parties and to the movies until things settle down.
Keep hands and surfaces or objects clean and virus-free.
Flu viruses can survive up to 8 hours on surfaces and objects.
Teach children to always clean their hands properly with soap and water. Also try to clean toys, counters, handles, phones, remote controls and other objects that are usually shared, using hot soapy water or disinfectants against flu virus.
Let children stay healthy.
Good health practices are applicable in all seasons. Provide children god nutrition, moderate execise and enough rest to help improve their immune system.
A well balanced diet should consist of nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruits, milk and water.
Encourage children to have at least one hour of physical activity almost daily.
School-age children should get at least 10 hours of sleep while toddlers should have 12 hours.
Treat symptoms of children with flu.
Apply home remedies when children are sick. Rest and plenty of liquids are a must. Honey for cough of children over one year old is an effective cough suppressant and does not present side effects. Medicated rubs for the chest for cough or congestion can bring relief. So can humidifier or vaporizer and saline drops.
Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce fever in children. Avoid aspirin as it can cause Reye Syndrome, a serious illness in children with a viral illness.
An antiviral medicine prescribed for patients within 48 hours of the flu, can minimize the symptoms and severity of the flu and its contagiousness as well.
Without antiviral medications, most healthy children will recover within a few days. Just be aware of worsening fever or cough and watch out for other signs of complications from flu.
Your children are vulnerable to influenza. They are ignorant of of this condition and even more on how to prevent it. Protect them through proper guidance and implementation of preventive actions against this potentially serious condition.