During flu season, parents are often on high alert. As we all know, 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 you and your family minimize your risk of getting, and spreading, an infection like the flu or measles.
Wash your hands
Proper hand washing is an easy 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 “hand washing with soap could protect about one out of every three young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost one out of five young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia,” according to the CDC.
Hand washing can be difficult to enforce 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 hand sanitizer to keep your child’s hands clean.
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 protecting our children and their health. Although vaccines do not provide full protection against the flu, they decrease your child’s chances of contracting the illness and often make it less severe if your child does get sick.
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 regularly disinfect all surfaces using anti-bacterial cleaners.
Keep your children home when they’re sick
Does your child have a fever (100.4° F or higher)? Do they have a questionable rash? Are they 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.