Friday, March 02, 2012

Flu Fridays: What parents can do to protect kids from the flu

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the U.S. flu season has officially begun, making this the latest start to a flu season in 29 years.

While flu activity has been relatively low compared to other flu seasons, CDC did report some sad news: There have been three child deaths so far this year from influenza. In the U.S., an estimated 20,000 children younger than age 5 are hospitalized every year from complications with the flu, which is why CDC considers young children a high-risk group.

Thankfully, there are things that any parent can do to help protect their child from the flu.

Parents with children 6 months of age and older can take their child to get a flu shot. CDC recommends that all children 6 months of age and older be vaccinated against the flu. This is especially true for children with asthma or other chronic health problems, because they are at higher risk for complications if they get the flu.

[Image: Child receiving flu shot, courtesy CDC/ Judy Schmidt]

Parents and siblings of babies younger than 6 months should get the flu shot themselves. Although a baby may be too young for the flu shot, family members can get vaccinated to reduce the chance of contracting the flu and passing it on to the baby. And parents should make sure that anyone who takes care of their baby — family members, baby sitters, nannies — are up-to-date on all vaccines, including seasonal influenza. For more information about children and the flu, check out CDC’s website. You can also read our Get Ready fact sheet that tells why it’s important for kids to get vaccines.

Pregnant women are also considered a high-risk group for the flu, because the flu can cause more severe complications during pregnancy, putting both the woman and developing fetus at risk. The great news is that the flu shot is safe for pregnant women, and the shot will also protect her fetus as well! Because of the safety and benefits of vaccination for pregnant women, the popularity of the flu vaccine has been growing in recent years. At least half of pregnant women in the U.S. reported getting their seasonal flu shot last year.

Aside from vaccination, parents of young children can teach good hand-washing techniques and other hygiene habits, such as covering their mouth and nose when they sneeze. The Get Ready campaign has a great selection of fact sheets about hand-washing for children of all ages to help parents and teachers.

For more information about families whose lives have been touched by influenza, visit Faces of Influenza and Families Fighting Flu.

We hope that this information will help your family stay flu-free this season!

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