It is a common misconception that flu season occurs only during the winter. But it actually starts in October and can last until May.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year. In addition, the recent outbreak of measles at Disneyland reminds us that there are multiple viruses to be wary of this year.
These outbreaks may be concerning for parents because children are notorious for contracting and spreading infections. Children like to touch, lick and eat almost everything they come in contact with — especially when parents aren’t watching.
Here are some tips to help minimize the risk of spreading infection.
- Wash Your Hands
Handwashing is the first way to prevent the spread of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the top two killers of young children around the world are diarrheal diseases and pneumonia. But “handwashing with soap could protect about 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost 1 out of 6 young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia,” according to the CDC.
Handwashing can be difficult to for younger children, but turning this into a game for your little one makes it easier. Make sure to wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds or sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer to keep your child’s hands clean.
- Get Vaccinated
Healthy People 2020, an HHS initiative, projects that 300 children annually die from vaccine-preventable illnesses and that 14 million diseases may be prevented by vaccinations. This demonstrates that vaccines are a great benefit for our children.
It may be possible to experience minor side effects of redness, swelling, pain and low-grade fever after receiving a vaccine, but these reactions last about 24 to 48 hours. For more information about a recommended vaccine schedule, visit the CDC website or talk to your child’s pediatrician.
- Cover Your Mouth and Nose
Teach your children to cover their mouth and nose using a tissue or their hands while coughing or sneezing. If your child is sick, have them avoid face-to-face contact with you or anyone else. This will help to keep them from spreading germs to you and their friends sitting next to them. Always have your child wash their hands afterwards to further minimize the spread of infection.
- Wipe and Clean All Surfaces
Germs often grow on multiple surfaces, such as the coffee table, doorknob, toys or countertops. To help our little ones who love to touch and lick everything, parents should disinfect all surfaces using anti-bacterial cleaners.
- Keep Your Children Home When They Are Sick
Does your child have a fever (100.4° F or higher)? Do they have a questionable rash? Is your child acting unusual today?
If the answer is “yes,” it is probably best to contact your pediatrician and, depending on their advice, consider keeping your child home from daycare or school. This is especially important if your child is running a fever. Make sure they are free of fever for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medications before they are sent back around other children.
As always, please contact your pediatrician with any questions or concerns regarding your child’s health.