While flu illness can vary from mild to severe, it can be a serious disease for children of all ages. The flu can cause children to miss school, activities or even be hospitalized. It is spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk.
A person can get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then by touching their own mouth, eyes or nose. We know kids do these things all the time, but you can protect them—and your family—from the flu with three steps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Get the flu vaccine
- Take everyday preventive actions
- Use antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them
Your First Line of Defense: Get Your Flu Vaccine
Vaccination is the first and most important step in protecting your family, especially for children with asthma, diabetes (type 1 and 2) or other long-term medical conditions as they are at increased risk for serious complications if they get sick with the flu.
CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older get a flu vaccine each season. Some children six months through eight years of age may need two doses of vaccine to be protected this season; parents should ask their doctor or other healthcare professional if unsure. And remember, it takes two weeks after vaccination for the vaccine to offer full protection.
Flu vaccine is offered in many places, including doctors’ offices, some schools, grocery stores and pharmacies. If you need help finding the flu vaccine in your area, you can use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder at vaccine.healthmap.org.
Tips to Keep Germs Away
CDC recommends that parents and children take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- If sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities (your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth because germs spread this way.
Fight the Flu If Your Child Gets Sick
If your child or a member of your family does get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness. Antivirals are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are available by prescription only. They can make flu illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They also may prevent serious flu complications like pneumonia and bronchitis. The flu vaccine protects against more than one flu virus, so even if you get sick with the flu, you should still be vaccinated once you recover.
Remember an annual flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu. Make sure you and your family get the flu vaccine, and encourage others to do the same by sharing your flu vaccine selfies on social media using #VaxWithMe. For additional info visit the CDC’s Flu website.