Simple Tips on How to Avoid the Flu
Welcome to another pediatric blog! There has been a bit of a break since the last one due to my absence. I was out for two weeks on Paternity leave, but I am back now in full swing. Quickly, I do have to confess that having a newborn again has been quite an eye opener. My son is 8.5 years old, so it has been quite a while since I have had to care for a newborn and get up for feeds in the middle of the night and change diapers. So, for all of our new parents or our parents with newborns, I definitely know the struggle and am sending a big shout out and kudos to you. I am right there with you and I think in the near future we will need some blogs dedicated to newborn care and tips for parents who are expecting or for those that would find the information helpful.
Alright, enough about that, let’s get right to it then with this week’s blog. If you recall the last blog was about the importance of getting the flu shot and information about the flu. Therefore, I want to piggyback off of that topic and talk about how to prevent the spread of the flu and other common colds this winter so you can protect your children and family and also what to do if you think your child has the flu.
Prevention of Flu and other Common Colds:
HAND WASHING: I know it seems so easy, but this is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Washing hands more often with soap and running warm water is very effective at stopping the spread of the flu and other common colds. The amount of time needed to effectively scrub and cleanse hands should be as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. If soap and/or running water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. A side note about hand sanitizer; the alcohol in them causes the skin to dry out so frequent moisturizing of the hands with lotion is important to prevent cracked or chapped hands which can in turn become infected. Lastly, help your child wash their hands if needed. I would say any child less than 5-6 years of age will need your help in properly cleaning their hands.
Germ Control: Encourage your child to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth. Have them use a tissue or elbow to cough or sneeze into. Let’s face it though, most children are not going to do that but try and teach them to at least cover their cough or sneeze and to keep their fingers out of their nose and mouths (hey this is what kids do).
Distance: Your child should avoid close contact with people who are sick. This one is hard as the winter months we tend to notice when we pick our kids up from daycare or school the other kids walking around with runny noses and coughs. This is where the importance of hand washing comes into play. Also, if your child is going to be having a play date it is perfectly acceptable to ask the other parent if their child has been sick lately or been around siblings or anyone else who has been sick. Lastly, if your child is sick, please keep them out of daycare or school as it prevents the spread to the other children. I am a parent and totally understand how hard it is to call out from work or find coverage but likewise you would not want someone sending their sick child to infect your child who is not sick in turn causing him to become sick and hence leading to missing work.
Cleaning: Again, I am a parent and know how crazy it can be and all the things we have to juggle that sometimes cleaning takes less priority, but cleaning is very important during the cold and flu season months and helps prevent the spread of germs. Keep surfaces in the house and toys clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to the directions on the product label. Do not forget items such as remotes, handheld electronic devices, video game controllers (things your child is constantly touching).
Health: Okay, so this one is not really a prevention piece but it is an important piece especially for some of the pediatric population. If your child has a chronic health condition, such as asthma or a neurological condition to just name two; make sure that it is under the best control. This may mean making an appointment with your child’s doctor to check in and make sure everything is in order before heading into the cold and flu season. Think of it like a “tune up” and it also is a good time to make sure you have enough of their prescription medication if they are on any. Also, talk with your child’s doctor about what to do if your child with a chronic health condition were to contract the flu and when they would need to be seen in the office versus an emergency room, depending on their type of chronic illness.
Get A Flu Shot: See the last blog for all the information regarding the flu shot as this is the most important thing for your child and remember they should get a flu vaccine every year. Children younger than 6 months of age are at high risk of serious flu illness, but they are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them or siblings in the home should be vaccinated instead in order to protect them.
Rest, Healthy Eating, Exercise: If your child has seen me in the office than you know that there are three things I always push to promote when it comes to being healthy; they are adequate sleep, healthy and balanced diet, and daily exercise. During the cold and flu season these three pieces are more important than ever as they help keep your child’s body, and most importantly their immune system, functioning at their best.
What Should I Do When My Child Gets Sick, Especially If I Think It Is the Flu?
Doctor: Call or take your child to the doctor if your child develops flu-like symptoms (see previous blog for what those symptoms are). Many doctor’s offices have the ability to test for the flu with a quick in office test, although there are many strains so the most common ones are usually tested. If your child is positive for flu and has a chronic health condition, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to help combat the flu (Tamiflu).
Home Care: Excluding doctor’s visits, keep your child at home until they no longer have a fever for at least 24 hours and are feeling more like themselves. This means no school/ daycare, grocery stores, shopping, church, etc. as they will spread their germs to others.
Rest and Fluids: Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks plenty of fluids to keep them from becoming dehydrated. Younger children and infants can easily become dehydrated compared to older children, so pay extra close attention in these aged children. Fever alone can lead to dehydration if your child is not adequately hydrating.
Covering Coughs: Ensure your child covers coughs and sneezes; this should be a little bit easier to ensure now that they are home and under your care.
Sick Room: Keep your sick child in a separate room (sick room) in the house. Limit as much contact as possible with other members of the household who are not sick. Make one person in the house the main caregiver for the sick child if possible. So, this may be a little extreme, but this is probably more important if your child has confirmed flu and you have an infant in the home or want to not spread the flu throughout the house to other family members.
Medicines: Ask your child’s doctor about fever-reducing medicines and their dosing based on your child’s age and weight. Children younger than 4 years of age should NOT be given over-the-counter cough/cold combo medicines without approval from a health care provider. Aspirin should NOT be given to children or teenagers who have the flu; this can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome. Remember too that fever helps your child fight the infection, so it is not always necessary to give fever reducing medicines.
10 Things for Parents to Know About the 2017-2018 Flu Vaccine. (2017). Retrieved October 31, 2017 from
Written By: Christopher Elkins, CPNP
Practitioner Elkins was born and raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is a board certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner by the PNCB (Pediatric Nursing Certification Board). He sees patients from birth to 21 years of age Christopher and his wife Erin have an 8-year-old son, Everett and are expecting another baby boy in October 2017. Christopher and his family enjoy traveling to the mountains of North Carolina in the fall; enjoy the beaches during the summer, and concert-going all year round.