Flu season is at its peak from January through April. Parents should be on the lookout for signs and symptoms and keep children at home if they think their child is infected. The ready availability of flu vaccines this year may take away some of the seasonal sting. This year’s flu vaccine will protect against the H1N1 virus, which resulted in significant illness for many children and families in the 2009-10 season.
As the season progresses, here are some basics every parent should know:
The best way to prevent your child or baby 6 months or older from getting the flu is to ask his or her doctor about obtaining a vaccine. Advise your child of prevention strategies. Remind children of the importance of not sharing cups and eating utensils with friends, and provide them with portable hand sanitizers. Remind them that one of the most important strategies is washing their hands with soap and water.
What if your child begins showing symptoms?
Contain the illness: If your child has a fever or other symptoms, be sure to keep him or her at home. Take his or her temperature, and keep siblings and other family members separated from the child as much as possible. Be sure to wash your hands after every visit to the child’s room, and wash all items the child touches. Keep your child home until he or she has been symptomfree for 24 hours.
If your child’s fever is high, work to control it through use of medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naprosyn (ask your physician to choose which is best). After administering the proper dose for age and weight, you may provide baths at room temperature and cool compresses. Offer oral hydrating solutions such as Pedialyte if the child is vomiting. It is important to offer frequent small meals and avoid over bundling a feverish child.
When to see a doctor
Be sure to see your doctor right away if the fever persists for more than three days or in the event of frequent night awakenings due to headaches or vomiting. Remember, you know your child better than anyone, so if you are worried, visit your doctor immediately.
Dr. Gloria Riefkohl is a pediatrician with Miami Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Care Center and the Division of Preventive Medicine.