As the new school year begins, we are reminded of how well our children “share,” and the thing they share most often, while unknowingly, are germs. Here are a few tips about flu season and how to protect your family.
Why Vaccination is Important
Children younger than 5 years of age (and especially those under 2 years of age) are at an increased risk of hospitalization due to influenza. Infants younger than 6 months are too young to get their own flu shot. The best way to protect these very young children is for all family members and caregivers to get a flu vaccine each year. This is called “cocooning”, and it is especially important for adults who care for infants younger than 6 months.
Things You Need to Know About This Year’s Flu Season
- The AAP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine every year. Flu vaccination is the single best way for children, parents, and child care staff to reduce flu illness and its potentially serious complications.
- Get your flu vaccination by the end of October. It’s good to be protected as soon as possible since you never know when flu viruses will begin to circulate in your community.
- The flu vaccine (trivalent or quadrivalent) protects against 3 or 4 flu viruses. Flu vaccines include the viruses that research suggests will be most common in the US this flu season. The quadrivalent vaccine protects against the same 3 viruses that are in the trivalent vaccine and a second influenza B virus.
- For the 2018-2019 season, the AAP recommends the flu shot as the primary vaccine choice for all children. In addition to the shot, though, the nasal spray vaccine is once again available. However, the AAP recommends the nasal spray vaccine be used if the child would otherwise not get any flu vaccine at all.
- Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines that can be used to treat the flu. They can shorten a person’s flu illness, make it milder, and can prevent serious complications. Antivirals work best when started during the first couple days after onset of illness. Antiviral drugs are recommended to treat flu in people who are at high risk of serious flu complications, are very sick, or are hospitalized. Antivirals to treat the flu can be given to children of all ages and pregnant women.
- Policies in your child care center or home can limit the spread of influenza. Implement everyday preventive actions like good respiratory etiquette, hand washing; and cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. For child care providers, review policies on exclude children and caregivers who have respiratory symptoms (cough, runny nose, or sore throat) and fever.