Influenza can be a real burden. It can spread rapidly between children and their families to have a significant impact on quality of life and disruption of usual activities: resulting in missed school days and for caregivers, missed work and illness themselves.
So, here are a few tips for those with young ones headed back to school this fall to help prevent the respiratory illness.
Preventing Flu in the First Place
“After you and your family have lived through the flu once, it’s safe to say you’ll want to do anything you can to prevent future infection,” said Emergency Medical Physician and Engineer, Dr. Jae Pak.
Many doctors and government entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone six months and older get a seasonal influenza vaccine every year (with rare exceptions) and can do so starting in August for the U.S.
In the U.S., flu vaccines may be available at your local pharmacy, urgent care clinic and even in some schools. But just keep in mind that you may need to visit your child’s pediatrician or healthcare provider for the shot if your local laws require it.
Beyond vaccination, the CDC recommends other preventative actions like having children cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or in a bent arm, as well as demonstrating proper hand hygiene. And because flu spreads through droplets in the air, Harvard School of Public Health researchers shared that wearing a mask helps prevent the spread, too.
What to do if they Get Sick
“With the flu, you’ll need to tackle it head-on as soon as symptoms emerge,” Pak said.
Typical flu symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and or fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and or diarrhea.
The CDC recommends having your child stay home from school and other activities if they are sick to avoid spreading illness to others. They should do so until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or signs of a fever which include chills, feeling very warm, flushed appearance, or sweating; without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
“While it doesn’t feel good, most healthy people are able to ride the flu out at home, easing the symptoms with over-the-counter medication,” he said.
Sometimes flu can be severe, especially for children younger than five years or those with long term health concerns. If your child is experiencing any of the emergency warning signs, the CDC recommends that you and your child go to the emergency room and consult your medical provider for any other symptom that is severe or concerning.