It’s no wonder, as parents, we are on high alert during cold and flu season. Millions of children get sick each year with seasonal flu. Children are notorious for contracting and spreading infections. Children like to touch, lick and eat almost everything they encounter, 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.
1. Wash your hands
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that diarrheal diseases and pneumonia are the top two killers of young children worldwide. The simple act of washing your hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
Handwashing 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 when kids are younger, 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.
2. Get vaccinated
Healthy People 2020, a US Department of Health and Human Services initiative, estimates roughly 300 children die each year from vaccine-preventable illnesses and that vaccinations may prevent 14 million diseases.
Although vaccines do not provide complete protection against the flu, they decrease your child’s chances of contracting the illness and often make it less severe if they do 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 24 to 48 hours. For more information about a recommended vaccine schedule, visit the CDC website or talk to your child’s pediatrician.
3. Cover your mouth and nose
Teach your children the importance of covering their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze to help keep germs from spreading. Share the following steps with your kids:
- Try to cover your nose and mouth with a clean tissue
- If you don’t have tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow
- Put the used tissue in the trash
- Wash your hands right away
4. Wipe and clean all surfaces
Most studies have shown that the flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for up to 48 hours after landing on a surface. Germs often grow on multiple surfaces, such as the coffee table, doorknob, toys or countertops.
Regularly sanitize often-touched surfaces using anti-bacterial cleaners. Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s official list of EPA-registered disinfectants.
5. 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, particularly if your child is running a fever. Make sure they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medications before returning.
As always, contact your doctor with any questions or concerns regarding your child’s health.