HOUSTON (Sept. 17, 2009) – With school back in session and flu season around the corner, it’s wise to have your kids vaccinated against seasonal flu and, when available, the novel H1N1 flu.
Physicians say receiving both flu shots can protect children and help them from spreading the illness.
“In schools, kids spend the day in close quarters with their peers and can easily catch the flu virus,” said Fred Sutton, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer, Harris County Hospital District. “The good news is that by getting flu shots, a child’s chances of contracting and spreading the virus are lessened.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year in the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die from seasonal flu complications. Because of the uncertainty of H1N1, experts predict a busier than usual flu season.
Children are particularly susceptible to catching the viruses. Other groups at higher risk include pregnant women and healthcare personnel with direct patient contact. The seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against H1N1. For better protection against both types of flu, medical experts recommend getting both vaccines.
Despite prevention, some children still might catch a bug, so it’s important to teach your child good hygiene and use it yourself. HCHD recommends the following preventive measures:
- Cover the nose with a tissue or use the upper part of a shirt sleeve at the elbow when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.
- Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based cleaner. Be sure to wash before and after eating, using the restroom, playing with other children and touching items and surfaces others touch.
- Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth. This can spread germs from one person to another.
- If your child experiences flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, muscle aches or vomiting, do not send them to school. Keep them home for 24 hours after the fever and symptoms are gone.
If your child does get sick, be sure to:
- Give your child plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, such as water, juice and soup.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
- Use children’s strength medications for symptoms, but always talk to your doctor before administering any over-the-counter medications.
- Identify a separate room for your sick child to recover to prevent spreading illness to other family members. Collect games, books, DVDs, toys and other items to keep your child entertained until they are well.
“It’s every parent’s responsibility to take preventive measures to keep their kids healthy,” Sutton said. “Taking precautions to prevent the spread of germs makes it a healthier community for all of us.”