When kids come home from school, they may be bringing home more than homework. Because kids share water fountains, pencils and germs, it is possible that your little one could contract the flu.
But there are ways to protect your child from getting sick and combat those troublesome flu symptoms.
“We need to teach kids to wash their hands and not touch their eyes, nose or mouth with their hands during the day,” said Dayne Foster, MD, a pediatrician at Scott & White Healthcare. “We also need to tell them not to sneeze or cough into their hands, but use a tissue or the bend of their arm.”
Here are some other ways to help prevent the spread of disease:
- Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
And the best way to protect you and your children from getting the flu is to get vaccinated, the doctor said.
“Everyone over the age of six months…should get a flu shot every year.”
“Everyone over the age of six months, especially those who are considered high risk should get a flu shot every year,” Dr. Foster said.
Pregnant women, young children, people over the age of 65 and those with chronic illnesses like asthma, heart or lung disease or diabetes are especially susceptible to the flu and can have more serious side effects.
“They are more likely to get complications like pneumonia,” she said. “And they’re more likely to be hospitalized because of the flu.”
So, how do you know if you have the flu or just a cold?
“I wish the symptoms were more specific, but unfortunately, the flu mimics other diseases,” Dr. Foster said.
Here are some of the common signs that you may have the flu:
- Fever or feeling feverish with chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, which is more common in children
And despite reports that patients should take the anti-viral drug Tamiflu to shorten the life of their flu symptoms, Dr. Foster said that’s not always the best choice for every person.
“Most people really don’t need Tamiflu, even though everybody wants it,” she said. “Most people won’t have complications. They feel bad like they have a bad cold for a few days, but then they get over it.”
The pediatrician said older kids and adults, who aren’t considered high-risk, can usually just ride it out.
However, if younger children develop flu-like symptoms with a high fever, they should be seen by a doctor to rule out other illnesses that may require antibiotics.
“In kids, those symptoms can be something like an ear infection or strep throat,” Dr. Foster said. “Kids get an average of six upper respiratory infections a year that aren’t the flu. So, it’s better to see them to be sure.”
The flu season typically lasts from November through March and the flu vaccine is usually released in early fall. Children and adults between the ages of two and 50, without chronic health problems, can receive Flumist, a nasal spray form of the vaccine. Anyone older than 6 months can get the flu shot.
For more information on where to get your flu vaccine, contact the Bell County Health District at 254-778-4766 for the Temple clinic and 254-526-8371, option 6 for the Killeen clinic. And for patients living in the Brazos County area, you can contact your health department for more information at 979-361-4440. Or make an appointment with your Scott & White primary care doctor.
Do you get your flu shot every year? Do you think getting a flu vaccine has become more important since the H1N1 pandemic of 2009?
About the author
Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.