Reduce the Risks of Cold and Flu Bugs

It’s cold and flu season! While there’s no protection against germs at school or the workplace, there are ways to reduce the risks.

Your child might have a cold if he or she has a stuffy, runny nose, a sore throat, a hacking cough or sneezes frequently. The flu spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Signs of the flu include fatigue and weakness, a high fever, severe aches and pains, headache and a cough.

To help prevent these bad bugs, remind your little ones – and yourself – to:

– Wash hands often to keep from spreading germs.

– Place travel-size hand sanitizer in their backpacks.

– Postpone play dates with sick kids.

– Bundle up to stay warm. Wear appropriate outdoor clothing.

– Consider getting your child a flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends yearly flu shots for all children ages 6 months and older. The best time to get the shot is October or November, however it’s not too late to get it now!

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Who Needs a Flu Vaccine?

Practically everyone. This year’s seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for everybody 6 months and older. That includes healthy kids, as well as those with medical conditions. And it also includes you, Mom, especially if you are pregnant. Did you know the flu vaccine will protect you and your baby now — and your baby for the first few months of life?

CHOC Children’s infectious diseases specialist Jasjit Singh, M.D., has some helpful answers to questions we’re frequently asked about the seasonal flu vaccine.

Q. Why does a healthy child need a flu vaccine?
A. A child’s health status does not automatically prevent some of the serious complications associated with the flu. Children under 1 year of age who get the seasonal flu have extremely high rates of hospitalization. And in the last few years, half of the pediatric deaths from influenza have occurred in previously healthy children. This year’s flu vaccine protects against two new influenza strains, plus the H1N1 virus.

Q. My baby is younger than 6 months — how can I protect him during flu season?
A. Make sure that everyone in your home — siblings and grandparents, too — and daycare providers get a flu vaccine. This reduces the likelihood of your baby coming into contact with the virus. Also important: Wash your hands and use respiratory etiquette during flu season. There are many other respiratory viruses out there besides the seasonal flu, and the flu vaccine cannot protect against all of them.

Q. I’ve been hearing about “herd immunity” — what is that exactly?
A. Herd immunity protects the youngest, most vulnerable members of our community who cannot get the flu vaccine. When more members of the community are immunized, there is less chance of an influenza outbreak.
Also, some children have weak immune systems and remain vulnerable even after getting the flu vaccine. Their protection depends on herd immunity, as well.

Q. I’ve heard there is a nasal mist alternative to the shot.
A. The traditional flu shot is approved for children 6 months and older. The intranasal flu vaccine is an option for healthy kids 2 and older.

Earlier is better, but it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine. Contact your pediatrician.

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Tips to Prevent the Flu This Season

Tis the season for winter fun…and the flu bug? The flu season typically starts in October and lasts through April. That’s when people tend to spend more time indoors and in school, close to others who may be infected. Although the flu does seem to be going around a lot right now, we are still a few weeks away from the peak of the flu season, which is in January or February.

One way the flu spreads is when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

Signs of the flu include fatigue and weakness, a high fever, severe aches and pains, headache and a cough. With a cold, on the other hand, your child might have a stuffy, runny nose, a sore throat, a hacking cough or sneezes frequently.

While there’s no real protection against every germ, there are ways to reduce the risks. Remind your children to wash their hands often. Place travel-size hand sanitizer in their backpacks. Postpone play dates with sick kids. Remind your children not to share linens, utensils and dishes with those who are sick.

In addition, consider getting your child a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends yearly flu shots for all children ages 6 months and older.

For more tips about the flu, please click here: http://www.choc.org/pressroom/index.cfm?id=P00296&nid=536

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CHOC Recommends Flu Preventive Guidelines

Have you seen the movie Contagion? What did you think? It’s certainly causing moviegoers to think twice about the possibility of a virus of that magnitude! Well, while the events portrayed in this movie are fiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an infectious disease outbreak with that kind of impact could indeed happen. Luckily, the CDC and other dedicated U.S. and international agencies are working hard every day at preventing an outbreak like that, and keeping the community safe through research, education and prevention efforts.

On a smaller scale, the flu is a common, yet serious contagious disease that we need to stay informed on, especially with the flu season just around the corner in the fall. In the United States, influenza (flu) season usually begins in October and can last until May. The key to protecting your family is prevention.

The most recent flu vaccine recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stress the importance of getting a new flu shot this season. CHOC Children’s Hospital couldn’t agree more. The 2011-2012 flu vaccine will protect against the same three influenza strains as last year’s vaccine, including the 2009 H1N1 virus that caused the first global pandemic in more than 40 years and resulted in substantial illness, hospitalizations and deaths.

It’s recommended that everyone 6 months or older receive an influenza vaccine. Special efforts should be made to immunize all family members, household contacts, and out-of-home care providers of children who are younger than 5 years; children with high-risk conditions (asthma, diabetes, or neurologic disorders); health care personnel; and all women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy, or breastfeeding during the flu season.

In addition, the AAP recommends the following guidelines for administering the influenza vaccine to children depending on the child’s vaccine history and age at the time of the first administered dose:

• Infants younger than 6 months are too young to be immunized.
• Children 9 years of age and older need only one dose of influenza vaccine.
• Children 6 months through 8 years of age need only one dose of the 2011-2012 influenza vaccine if they received at least 1 dose last season.
• Children 6 months through 8 years of age should receive two doses if they did not receive any vaccine last season. The second dose should be administered at least four weeks after the first.
• An intradermal vaccine has been recommended for people 18 through 64 years of age.

For more tips and guidelines on the seasonal flu, please click here: http://www.choc.org/pressroom/news.cfm?nid=536

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