The Times West Virginian

January 7, 2013

Help prevent children from getting the flu

Times West Virginian

— When flu season strikes, your kids could be right in the line of fire.

Children are usually the first in a community to get sick with influenza. They’re also more likely than adults to catch the flu when they’re exposed. And they’re usually the ones most to blame for circulating the virus.

“Children play closely together, and they’re still learning hygiene,” says Dr. Judy MacDonald. “They can easily spread germs from person to person.”

The flu can make your little one feel pretty lousy, with its typical symptoms of fever, aches and pains, coughing and fatigue. Children with flu can suffer additional complaints like stomach pain, earaches and even convulsions.

Want to prevent your kids from catching the flu? Here are some steps that can help.

• Get the flu shot.

“My No. 1 advice is immunize your child against influenza,” says MacDonald. This is your best bet in keeping your child flu-free: In healthy kids, the flu shot is up to 90 percent effective.

Keep in mind babies under 6 months of age can’t be vaccinated, so it’s a good idea to take your own shot in the arm to protect your little papoose.

• Teach your child hand hygiene.

Hand-washing is another proven method of stemming the spread of germs. But it’s important to teach your kid how to wash properly: we’re talking soap and scrubbing, people. A few finger flicks under running water won’t do it.

Get your child in the habit of washing before he eats, after the bathroom and whenever his hands are dirty. Hand sanitizer is helpful on the fly, but young children need to be watched carefully to make sure they rub their hands until they’re dry. Otherwise, they may be swallowing alcohol ingredients the next time they put their hands in their mouths.

• Stay away from sick people.

Your child is more likely to catch the flu in crowded places. You may not be able to keep her out of school or day care. But if you can avoid malls, performance halls and even public transportation, you’ll reduce her odds of picking up flu germs.

Don’t allow close contact between your child and someone you know is sick.

For more information, visit