So far, the COVID-19 vaccine is recommended only for people 16 and older. It’s not yet approved for children younger than that. That’s because the first safety trials didn’t include younger age groups. As safety trials continue, researchers will know more about whether the vaccine is safe and works well in younger age groups. You can find the latest vaccine information by checking the CDC’s website.
Doctors, nurses, and health workers are taking the vaccine already. Soon it will be available for the public. When it is, healthy people over age 16 can take it. Experts predict that will happen by spring 2021.
So what’s the best way to protect your family? Keep doing the things you’re already doing:
Wear a mask.
Stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.
Wash your hands well and often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
Try not to touch your nose, mouth, or eyes unless you know your hands are clean.
Children hear about what’s going on in the world through social media, friends, or adults’ conversations. Sometimes the news is uplifting — like kids their age taking a stand on social or environmental issues. Other times, children may worry about current events and need an adult to help make sense of what’s happening.
Help your child understand the news and feel more at ease by taking these steps:
Find Out What Your Child Already Knows
Ask your kids questions to see if they know about a current event. For school-age kids and teens, you can ask what they have heard at school or on social media.
Consider your child’s age and development. Younger kids may not grasp the difference between fact and fantasy. Most kids realize the news is real by the time they are 7 or 8 years old.
Follow your child’s lead. If your child doesn’t seem interested in an event or doesn’t want to talk about it at the moment, don’t push.
Answer Questions Honestly and Briefly
Tell the truth but share only as much as your child needs to know. Try to calm any fears and help kids feel safe. Don’t offer more details than your child is interested in.
Listen carefully. For some kids, hearing about an upsetting event or natural disaster might make them worry, “Could I be next? Could that happen to me?” Older kids may have lots of questions. Focus on what your kids ask so you can help them cope with their fears. An adult’s willingness to listen sends a powerful message.
It’s OK to say you don’t know the answer. If your child asks a question that stumps you, say you’ll find out. Or use age-appropriate websites to spend time together looking for an answer.
Help Kids Feel in Control
Encourage your child to talk. If your child is afraid about what’s going on, ask about it. Even when kids can’t control an event — like a natural disaster — it can help them to share their fears with you.
Urge teens to look beyond a news story. Ask why they think an outlet featured a frightening or disturbing story. Was it to boost ratings and clicks or because the story was truly newsworthy? In this way, a scary story can be turned into a discussion about the role and mission of the news.
Teach your children to be prepared, not panicked. For example, if the news is about a natural disaster, make a family plan for what you might do. If an illness is spreading, talk about ways to protect yourself and others.
Talk about what you can do to help. After a tragic event, finding ways to help can give kids a sense of control. Look for news stories that highlight what other people are doing.
Put news stories in context. Broaden the discussion from a specific news item about a difficult event to a larger conversation. Use it as a way to talk about helping, cooperation, and the ways that people cope with hardship.
Limit Exposure to the News
Decide what and how much news is appropriate for your child. Think about how old your kids are and how mature they are. Encourage them to take breaks from following the news, especially when the topics are difficult.
Keep tabs on the amount of difficult news your child hears. Notice how often you discuss the news in front of your kids. Turn off the TV so the news is not playing in the background all day.
Set limits. It’s OK to tell your kids that you don’t want them to have constant exposure and to set ground rules on device and social media use.
Watch the news with your child and talk about it. Turn off a story if you think it’s not appropriate for your child.
Keep the Conversation Going
Talk about current events with your child often. Help kids think through stories they hear – good and bad. Ask questions like: “What do you think about these events?” or “How do you think these things happen?” With these types of questions, you can encourage conversation about non-news topics.
Watch for stress. If your child shows changes in behavior (such as not sleeping or eating, not wanting to be around people, or worrying all the time), call your child’s doctor or a behavioral health care provider. They can help your child manage anxiety and feel better able to cope.
The holidays don’t always feel like holidays without favorite foods, which can make them especially difficult for kids with diabetes and their families. If your family’s traditional favorites seem like a recipe for disaster, Children’s nutritionist Rainie Robinson has three simple tips to keep your celebrations healthy and fun:
1) Keep track of carbs (carbohydrates)
You’ll want to help your child make lower fat choices to stay healthy daily. But on a holiday, Robinson says, “We’re really just focused on counting the carbs.”
Accurately counting carbs is one of the things families struggle with around the holidays, Robinson explains, but online and smartphone resources to make it easier than ever. Sites like calorieking.com and carbmanager.com help identify the carbohydrate counts in common foods, and both sites offer free smartphone apps for quick reference on the go.
For multi-ingredient dishes prepared at home, sparkrecipes.com has a handy recipe calculator that does the counting for you. Keep in mind that these counts depend on accurate serving measures, so you’ll have to be aware when dishing out servings.
Some holiday foods are surprisingly easy to adjust for a lower carbohydrate load. “You can make a lot of the pies a lot more diabetes-friendly by just using a sugar substitute,” Robinson notes. “If you use sucralose (Splenda®) it doesn’t really change the consistency or alter the baking in any way.” Making your pie crust-less can save even more carbs.
2) Enjoy some favorites
Remember that the holidays should feel special and it’s okay to indulge a little. Robinson recommends that kids stick to three or four of their favorite items in the main meal and one or two small desserts. Fill half the plate with non-starchy vegetables and lean protein to fill up on lower carb options. A half-cup serving is a good limit for higher calorie items. (But don’t worry about bringing a measuring cup to holiday dinners: A half-cup serving is roughly the size of a child’s fist.)
Some holiday favorites have reasonable carb counts in small servings. Mashed potatoes, for instance, have so much milk and butter that the carb load is only around 15 grams of carbohydrates per half cup. Green bean casserole is another decent option at roughly 12 grams of carbs per half cup. (Macaroni and cheese and cornbread dressing have higher amounts of carbs and should be eaten in moderation, since a one cup serving can add up to more than 50 grams of carbohydrates.)
Regular snacks can help kids avoid constant grazing and stick to reasonable servings during big holiday dinners. Need ideas? These kid-friendly snacks weigh in at just 15 grams of carbohydrates: • Four animal crackers with 4 ounces of milk • One small piece of fruit with 3 ounces of cheese • Five vanilla wafers and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter • One slice of turkey breast with lettuce and tomato wrapped in a 6-inch tortilla • One 6-ounce cup of light yogurt (or one Yoplait Go-Gurt® tube)
Try to limit favorites to actual food, and avoid liquid calories. Stay away from sugar in drinks, Robinson says, “because it doesn’t really take any digestion to absorb, and that’s bad news for blood sugar maintenance.”
3) Get back to normal
Balance holiday treats with a quick return to normal diet habits. “We still want them to monitor and use their good judgment and not have a free-for-all that day,” Robinson says, “but on the next day really try to get back into that typical range.”
And try not to make your child feel like she’s being singled out because of her diabetes, Robinson cautions. Practice the same thoughtful indulgence followed by normal eating yourself. That way, you’re teaching your child that these habits are part of a healthier family holiday instead of a punishment for her diabetes.
In Robinson’s experience, parents of newly-diagnosed diabetics often have the hardest time with this balance, but they shouldn’t worry too much. “It gets easier with time,” she says. “Just play it by ear, especially with the first holiday.”
Your child doesn’t feel well, but should you take him to the emergency department? Sometimes it’s hard to tell when a child requires urgent medical treatment or if the concern can wait.
Dr. Eric Jorge is a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Children’s of Alabama. He’s seen children come to the emergency department who could have been treated at home. “It’s always a good place to start if your child is sick or has a fever, to call your on-call pediatrician or nurse,” Dr. Jorge said. “They can help guide you as to whether it’s appropriate to seek care in the emergency department or not.”
You should always take your child to the emergency department in a true emergency. These signs include:
Go to Emergency Department for: • serious injury • persistent vomiting • trouble breathing • not drinking enough, not urinating enough • unusual sleepiness or confusion • a head injury with vomiting • eye injury • serious burns • ingested poison or unknown substance
Call 911 if your child: • isn’t breathing or is turning blue • is unconscious after a fall • is having a seizure • has a serious allergic reaction • has broken a bone that sticks out through the skin • is choking • has a large cut that is bleeding uncontrollably
A high fever can be scary for a parent to see, however, Dr. Jorge said it’s the body’s natural defense mechanism against infection. “Fever is not actually dangerous to children,” he said. “A fever can make you feel pretty bad, but even a fever up to 104 or 105 degrees Fahrenheit can be handled at home.” He recommends giving a child ibuprofen or acetaminophen to see if that brings the fever down. Dr. Jorge also said that most children who are diagnosed with COVID-19 do not require emergency care and can be treated at home.
Babies are the exception to these guidelines, Dr. Jorge said. “Fever in a baby under 2 months old is considered an emergency. If your newborn has a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, please seek care immediately.” Dr. Jorge stresses the importance of every child having a pediatrician. Through an established relationship with a pediatrician, a child can receive better long-term care, and there is always someone on call 24-7 to help determine the best treatment for your child when you’re not sure if you need to take them to the emergency department.
The holidays are one of the most wonderful times of the year. Keep you and your family safe this season by reading the tips below on how to avoid potential holiday hazards.
Between 2013-2017, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries and $10 million in direct property damage annually. When deciding on a Christmas tree this year, make sure it is fresh and watered appropriately. The tree needles should be green and the stump sticky with sap, and the tree should be placed away from any heat sources that may cause it to catch fire. You should water the tree daily and if you notice the tree beginning to dry out and die, you should remove the tree from your home. All artificial trees should be flame-resistant.
Many holiday plants can be poisonous if ingested. This includes mistletoe, holly and Jerusalem cherry plants. Symptoms of potential plant poisoning are rashes, vomiting and diarrhea. If you suspect that your child has eaten any part of the plant, please contact the Alabama Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. Bubble lights and snow sprays can also be poisonous to children. Bubble lights contain a hazardous chemical called methylene chloride and should not be ingested.
Be sure to keep medications out of reach for your children. Store all medicines — prescription and non-prescription — out of sight and out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet. Even items that seem harmless, such as mouthwash, can be hazardous if ingested in large quantities by children. All packages and bottles should be child-resistant. Make sure your kids are in a safe area of the house that is properly child-proofed.
Alcohol and Food Poisoning
The risk of alcohol and food poisoning is all too common amongst children during the holidays. To lower the risk, make sure you dispose of all empty or partially empty containers immediately. All alcohol should be kept away and out of reach of children. Practice food safety by thoroughly washing hands, utensils, dishes and anything else that comes in contact with raw meat, including poultry, fish and raw eggs, before and after use. Store your leftovers properly and heat them thoroughly before serving again.
Choking and Swallowing
Tree ornaments, light bulbs, icicles, tinsel and small toys are all potential choking hazards for small children. If it is small enough to fit in a baby or toddler’s mouth, then it is too small to play with. Button batteries are common in most children’s toys and are very dangerous if swallowed. The symptoms of button battery ingestion are coughing, choking, irritability, loss of appetite and fever. If swallowed, visit your nearest emergency department or call 911. Small treats such as peanuts or popcorn, tree needles, angel hair (made from finely spun glass) and ornament hangers are all potentially harmful and should be kept away from children.
The number one thing to remember when picking gifts for your little ones this season is that you must choose a gift that is age appropriate. For young children, toys without strings, batteries and removable parts are best and reduce the risk of choking.
If your child ingests something toxic this holiday season, call the Alabama Poison Information Center at Children’s of Alabama at 1-800-222-1222. Our experts can give recommendations for how to treat ingestion as well as dermal and ocular exposures.
To help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), health experts recommend that:
Stay at least 6 feet away from other people who do not live with you (called social distancing or physical distancing).
Clean our hands well and often.
Wear a mask (or face covering) when leaving our homes.
Follow local and national health department recommendations.
How Does a Mask Help Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus?
Coronavirus can spread when people breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze. Wearing a mask keeps the virus from reaching others. It also can stop the virus from reaching you. If everyone wears a mask when they’re out in public, fewer people will get sick.
Masks do not replace social distancing. Outside your home, stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.
Should People Who Are Not Sick Wear a Mask?
People with coronavirus may not have symptoms, but they can still spread the virus. So even people without symptoms should wear a mask.
Who Should Not Wear a Mask?
Children under 2 years old should not wear a mask.
Someone who is sick and has trouble breathing should not wear a mask.
Anyone who can’t take a mask off without help (for example, if they’re unconscious) should not wear a mask.
What Is the Best Way to Put on a Mask?
Before touching your mask or face covering, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Pick up the mask by the strings or ear loops, if it has them. If you have a cloth face covering that does not have strings or ear loops, try to pick it up in an area that will not touch your face.
Adjust the strings, ear loops, or cloth face covering so it fits snugly against your face. There should be no gaps on the side of your face.
The mask should cover your nose and mouth at all times.
Do not pull the mask down to talk, cough, or sneeze.
What Is the Best Way to Remove a Mask?
Before taking off your mask or face covering, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Untie the strings or remove by the ear loops, if your mask has them. If you have a cloth face covering that does not have strings or ear loops, remove the covering by touching a part of it that does not touch the face.
Fold the mask together (with the part that touches the face on the inside) and place in a clean paper bag or into the washing machine.
Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
How Should We Take Care of Masks and Cloth Face Coverings?
Wash any worn masks at least once a day, or more often if they look dirty. If the manufacturer gave any special directions, follow them. Use the warmest settings on the washer and dryer that’s safe for the material.
It’s OK to put your mask in the washing machine and dryer with your other laundry.
Don’t share masks unless they’re washed and dried first.
Don’t store your mask with other people’s masks. You can store each mask in its own clean paper bag or hang each one separately on a hook.
How Can I Clean My Mask Without a Washer and Dryer?
If you don’t have a washer or dryer, you can hand wash your mask in a bleach solution and let it air dry:
Mix 4 tablespoons (60 cc) of household bleach in 1 quart (1 liter) of room temperature water.
Soak your mask in the bleach solution for 5 minutes.
Rinse well with room temperature water.
Let mask air dry completely (in direct sunlight, if possible).
Injuries are the leading cause of death and disability to U.S. children. According to the Injury Free Coalition for Kids, 20 children die each day as a result of preventable injuries – resulting in more deaths than all other diseases combined.
Motor vehicle crashes, choking, burns, falls, drowning and poisoning are just some of the health threats that bring nearly 200 children to the Emergency Department at Children’s of Alabama every day.
“Injuries in children are preventable,” said Kathy Monroe, M.D., medical director of the Children’s of Alabama Emergency Department and professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Children’s is participating in National Injury Prevention Day on Nov. 18 to bring awareness to the alarming statistics related to childhood injuries and to help parents and caregivers learn how to anticipate and prevent childhood injuries.”
The rooftop lights at Children’s of Alabama will be lit green on Nov. 18, joining other pediatric hospitals across the country to “help light the way toward child injury prevention.” Doctors in Children’s Emergency Department and the Adolescent Medicine and Primary Care clinics as well as physicians around the state from the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics will distribute safety education materials to patient families.
Injuries affect children of all ages. Dr. Monroe and the team of physicians in the Children’s of Alabama Emergency Department offer these age-based tips to protect children from the most common causes of injury.
Infants – Safe Sleep There are about 3,500 sleep-related deaths among U.S. babies each year, which occur from accidental suffocation, co-sleeping or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Risk Factors: • Placing infants to sleep on their stomach • Sharing a bed with an adult • Sleeping on a soft surface or with loose bedding • Exposure to secondhand smoke
What You Can Do: • Follow the ABCs of safe sleep: Alone, on his or her Back and in a Crib. • Put your baby to sleep alone. (Never let the baby sleep in bed with you. It is okay to share a bedroom, but not the same sleeping surface until your child is at least one year old.) • Put your baby to sleep on his or her back. (Babies should always be placed on their backs when going to sleep for both naps and bedtime.) • Put your baby to sleep in a crib or bassinet. (This should be completely empty except for one fitted sheet. Do not use soft bedding, bumpers, blankets, pillows or soft toys in the crib or bassinet.)
Toddlers – Poisoning Children of all ages are at risk of poisoning in the home. Young children and toddlers often put what they find in their mouths as a way of exploring their world. Safely storing household medications and products is the best way to prevent your child from accidental poisoning.
Risk Factors: • Brightly colored or scented cleaning products • Pills that look like candy • Toys that have small parts can be a choking hazard
What You Can Do: • Place cleaning products and chemicals on a high shelf, out of reach of small children. • Store all medications in a locked place, such as a lockbox or a locked cabinet. • Do not leave medications out on the counter where children may easily reach them. • Follow instructions from your doctor or pharmacist to dispose of expired or unused medications.
Preschool Children – Drowning Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in U.S. children ages 1 to 4 years. Drowning can be fast and silent. Children can drown in less than 1 inch of water and can occur in bathtubs and toilets, buckets of water, swimming pools and natural bodies of water.
What You Can Do: • Use childproof doorknob covers and toilet locks to keep unsupervised young children out of the bathroom. • Empty buckets, inflatable pools, and bathtubs immediately after using them. • Ensure that all children wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket while boating or around natural bodies of water. • Enroll children in swim lessons from an early age to learn water safety skills. • If you have a pool, install a fence that is at least 4 feet tall and surrounds the pool on all four sides. Use self-closing and self-latching gates to keep young children from entering the pool area unattended.
Older Children – Firearms Firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of injury-related death among U.S. children. Young children are curious and cannot truly understand how dangerous guns are (even if you have talked to them about gun safety). If your child comes across a loaded gun, he or she can be accidentally hurt or killed, or may hurt or kill others. Teens can be impulsive and may act without thinking.
What You Can Do: • Keep all guns locked, either with a gun lock or a gun safe. • Store guns unloaded and away from ammunition. • If anyone in the house is undergoing treatment for mental health disorders such as depression or suicidal thoughts, remove all firearms from the house for his/her safety.
Adolescents – Motor Vehicle Safety Motor vehicle collisions are the number one killer of older children and teens. Learning to drive is an exciting time, but inexperience and distractions can put teens at risk.
What You Can Do: • Properly restrain children in the correct car seat, booster seat or seat belt, depending on their age. • Discuss car seat safety with your pediatrician, and make sure you learn how to properly install your car seat in your vehicle. • Do not allow children under age 12 to sit in the front seat of the vehicle. • Teach teenagers to obey traffic lights and street signs, drive the speed limit and wear a seat belt. • Remind teenagers not to talk on the phone or text while driving. • Model good behavior: always wear your own seatbelt while in a vehicle, and check to be sure that your children are wearing theirs. • ATVs should only be used while wearing a helmet and following the safety instructions from the manufacturer. Never let a child under 16 ride an adult-sized ATV, and never allow more riders than the ATV was designed to carry.
All Ages – Fire Safety More than 60 percent of all house fires occur in homes without working smoke detectors. It is important to install smoke detectors on each floor of your home. Test smoke detectors frequently.
What You Can Do: • Change the batteries of your smoke detectors and check that they work every 6 months. • Have an escape plan from the home in the event of a fire, and practice with your family. • Place fire extinguishers in the kitchen, basement and garage. • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children. • Teach children what to do in the event of fire: stop, drop, and roll. • Make sure space heaters do not come in contact with clothing or other flammable materials. Do not keep space heaters in bedrooms.
All Ages – Motor Vehicle Safety
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 19 and under, and more than half of car seats are not used or installed correctly.
What You Can Do: • Properly restrain children in the correct car seat, booster seat or seat belt, depending on their age. • Discuss car seat safety with your pediatrician, and make sure you learn how to properly install your car seat in your vehicle.
Halloween is a highly anticipated day for children of all ages, but this year’s celebrations may look different due to COVID-19. Here are some tips to safely enjoy the holiday while keeping ghosts, ghouls, goblins – and germs – at a distance.
As with most activities outside the home, if you have been exposed to COVID-19 in the prior 14 days or have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you should not participate in any in-person festivities. This includes trick or treating and handing out candy from your house.
Dr. Gigi Youngblood, who sees patients at Pediatrics East, says that parents may need to be more involved this year to ensure that children are still following COVID-19 precautions during Halloween festivities. “Parents will need to be very hands-on this year, even with older kids who might usually go trick-or-treating on their own. We will need to supervise our kids to make sure they are being good neighbors, waiting their turn to approach the treats, hand sanitizing between houses, and keeping their masks on,” she said.
She said wiping down the candy you distribute or the treats your child receives isn’t really an effective way to control the spread of the coronavirus. “I would recommend washing hands thoroughly and wearing a mask prior to opening the sealed package that individual candies come in. Spreading out treats at the end of a driveway or edge of a yard is an effective way to prevent trick-or-treaters from clustering around a bowl or your doorway. Keep a mask on and continue to wash hands or use hand sanitizer as you replenish the treats.
And for all the trick-or-treaters who usually enjoy their candy as they move about the neighborhood, make sure they are using excellent hand hygiene. Sanitize hands between each house. “You might want to bring along a few of their favorite treats from your own home candy stash to give them when they ask to dig into their Halloween loot while still out and about,” Youngblood said. And as soon as you return home, everyone needs to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
Costumes are always part of Halloween fun, but Youngblood said most costume masks aren’t enough to control the spread of the virus. “Halloween costume masks are often not sufficient. We need to use our typical, well-fitted, cloth masks to ensure the droplets coming from our mouths and noses are contained,” she said.
When selecting a costume, make sure it fits well to prevent trips and falls. “Reflective tape or stickers, as well as flashlights and glowsticks can help drivers spot children while they are out trick-or-treating,” said Marie Crew, director of Safe Kids Alabama at Children’s of Alabama.
“Drivers should slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods,” Crew said. “Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.”
Parents and caregivers should remind their trick-or-treaters to cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Look left, right and left again when crossing the street and keep looking as you cross. Crew suggests using sidewalks or paths, and where those aren’t available, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
A: Influenza (also known as the flu) is an infection of the respiratory tract. It is caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person. It spreads when people cough or sneeze out droplets that are infected with the virus and other people breathe them in. The droplets also can land on things like doorknobs or shopping carts, infecting people who touch these things.
Q: Is flu contagious?
A: The flu is very contagious. People can spread it from a day before they feel sick until their symptoms are gone. This is about one week for adults, but it can be longer for young children.
Q: How will I know if my child has flu and not just a cold?
A: The fall and winter months are cold and flu season. Both the cold and the flu can present similar symptoms, including cough, congestion and runny nose. In general, the flu hits a lot harder and quicker than a cold. When people have the flu, they usually feel worse than they do with a cold. Most people start to feel sick about two days after they come in contact with the flu virus.
Q: What are some symptoms of flu?
A: Common symptoms of the flu include:
Fever or feeling feverish with chills, though not all people with the flu will have a fever
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Vomiting and diarrhea, which are more common in children
Q: When should we get this season’s flu vaccine?
A: Flu season in the United States is from October to May. Vaccines are provided at most pediatricians’ offices. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the flu shot for everyone over 6 months old.
Q: What is the treatment for flu?
A: Most children with flu get better at home. In the event a child does get sick, you can help mitigate symptoms. Make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids. You can give appropriate doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever and aches, and make sure they are getting plenty of rest.
Q: When should I seek medical treatment for my child if I suspect flu?
A: Bring your child to the doctor if you’re concerned about severe symptoms. Most of the time parents can care for their children with plenty of rest, fluids and extra comfort. Some children are more likely to have problems when they get the flu, including:
children up to the age of 5, especially babies
children and teens whose immune system is weakened from medicines or illnesses
children and teens with chronic (long-term) medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes
Q: In addition to the flu vaccine, how else can we stay healthy during cold and flu season?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the flu shot for everyone over 6 months old. Here are some other tips for staying healthy during cold and flu season:
Cover your cough and sneeze
Wash your hands
Clean living and working areas
Stay home from work or school if you are sick
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
Q: How can we prevent the spread of germs in our house if my child is sick?
A: The flu virus spreads when people cough or sneeze out droplets that are infected with the virus and other people breathe them in. The droplets also can land on things like doorknobs or shopping carts, infecting people who touch these things.
Teaching children the importance of hand washing is the best way to stop germs from causing sickness. It’s especially important after coughing or nose blowing, after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.
There’s a right way to wash hands, too. Use warm water and plenty of soap, then rub your hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds (away from the water). Children can sing a short song — try “Happy Birthday” — during the process to make sure they spend enough time washing. Rinse your hands and finish by drying them well on a clean towel. Hand sanitizer can be a good way for children to kill germs on their hands when soap and water aren’t available.
Cleaning household surfaces well is also important. Wipe down frequently handled objects around the house, such as toys, doorknobs, light switches, sink fixtures, and flushing handles on the toilets.
Soap and water are perfectly fine for cleaning. If you want something stronger, you can try an antibacterial cleanser. It may not kill all the germs that can lead to sickness, but it can reduce the amount of bacteria on an object.
It’s generally safe to use any cleaning agent that’s sold in stores but try to avoid using multiple cleaning agents or chemical sprays on a single object because the mix of chemicals can irritate skin and eyes.
Q: If my child has had flu, when can he return to school, child care, etc.?
A: Children with the flu should stay home from school and childcare until they feel better. They should only go back when they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using a fever-reducing medicine. Some children need to stay home longer. Ask the doctor what’s best for your child.
Q: How do I know if my child’s symptoms are flu or COVID-19?
A: The symptoms between these two viral illnesses can be similar, making it difficult to distinguish between the two based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with the flu or COVID-19. A phone call to the child’s pediatrician or primary care provider will help determine next steps regarding testing for flu and/or COVID-19.
Q: Do COVID-19 symptoms develop like flu symptoms?
A: If a person has COVID-19, it could take them longer to develop symptoms than if they had flu. According to the CDC, symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
Fall typically marks the start of ‘respiratory illness season,’ so in addition to protecting yourself from COVID-19, it’s also time to get your annual flu vaccine.
Getting a flu vaccine — combined with the additional protection of masks, hand washing and social distancing — is the best way to reduce the likelihood of getting sick. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.
Delphene Hobby-Noland, manager of infection prevention and control at Children’s of Alabama, said hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of germs.
“Our hands are the primary way that we transmit germs,” Hobby-Noland said. She suggests washing hands with soap for about 20 seconds (hint: sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice). Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a good alternative when soap and water are unavailable.
Hobby-Noland said that those most susceptible to the flu are children and the elderly because their immune systems tend to be weaker. Children under the age of 5, especially those younger than 2 years old, are particularly more likely to suffer from flu-related complications. These complications include pneumonia, dehydration, worsening of long-term medical problems like heart disease or asthma, swelling in the brain, sinus problems and ear infections. Children younger than 6 months cannot receive the flu shot, meaning that it is important for everyone who is of age to be immunized, especially caregivers and parents of young children. While the shot does not cover all strains of the flu, it can shorten or cause the case to be less severe even if someone does get the illness.
Other preventative measures involve disinfecting commonly used surfaces, as well as encouraging children to cover their mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and to avoid touching their faces.
If your child is experiencing milder flu-like symptoms, contact your pediatrician or primary care provider before going to the hospital. This helps to prevent further overcrowding, risking exposure to more serious illnesses and spreading the flu to children with underlying conditions who can’t fight infection as well as others.
Common symptoms of the flu include:
Fever or feeling feverish with chills, though not all people with the flu will have a fever
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Vomiting and diarrhea, which are more common in children