It’s that time of year when the flu virus spreads. Every year from October to May, millions of people across the United States come down with the flu. So how can you protect your family, and what should you do if your child gets sick?
Delphene Noland is the manager of Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s of Alabama. She recommends now is a good time to get the flu shot. “It can start as early as September through April. It’s good for the entire season. We know the flu is most prevalent through the fall and winter,” Noland said. The flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.
Influenza, or “the flu,” is a very contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. The flu can often have some of the same symptoms as the common cold but more severe.
Identifying the Flu
Flu feels worse than a cold
May have diarrhea or vomiting
Treating the Flu
Get plenty of sleep and stay home
Drink lots of liquids to prevent dehydration
Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve fever and aches
Noland says it is extremely important to stay hydrated during the flu. “Most flu deaths are related to complications of the flu, not necessarily the flu itself. For instance, things like dehydration and pneumonia,” she said. “If they’re not eating and drinking, if babies are not having wet diapers, those are hallmarks that you may need to seek medical attention.”
The flu is easily spread, but there are ways to prevent it. “Hand washing is the number one thing you can do to prevent any viruses including the flu,” Noland said. She encourages parents to teach their children to wash their hands often, including throughout the day when they are at school. “There’s no such thing as too much hand washing,” she said.
Because the flu is so contagious, it’s important to keep your child home when they are sick until they are fever free for at least 24 hours. The flu usually lasts about a week.
It’s important to get the vaccine every year to have the best protection against the flu.