Break out the tissues – it’s cold and flu season! Day care facilities, classrooms and parks will soon be filled with sick children performing the music of cough cough, sneeze sneeze, achoo!
So how do you keep your children safe from the common cold and flu this winter?
For the common cold, there’s no magic pill. The best prevention is simply frequent hand washing along with plenty of sleep, exercise and a healthy diet.
To avoid the flu, there’s a less time-consuming but very effective answer: the flu vaccine.
This year the flu vaccine comes in a variety of choices: thimerosal-free, needle-free, egg-free, quadrivalent and trivalent. How do you know which one is best for you or your family?
The good news is that just getting a flu vaccine (of any type) is better than not getting a flu vaccine. Flu vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. To help protect your newborn (too young to get his own vaccine) make sure everyone else at home or anyone who cares for him receives their own flu vaccine.
Other than a sore arm, side effects from the flu shot are rare. And contrary to popular belief, you can’t catch the flu from the flu shot. Scared of needles or looking for an alternative to the traditional flu shot? The nasal spray flu vaccine is a great option for non asthmatic healthy children over 2 years of age. If this is the first year receiving the flu vaccine, and your child is under age 9, he will need two doses one month apart. One bit of good news: the flu vaccine can be given at the same time as other childhood immunizations, so it won’t put your little one behind schedule.
Although the vaccine is updated each year – to combat the influenza virus that changes so often – it is not a cure-all. Unfortunately, the vaccine won’t prevent the sniffles that arrive from other viral infections.
This year’s newest flu vaccine (quadrivalent) will offer a bit more protection as it works against 4, instead of 3 strains of the flu. Although the majority of egg allergic people can have a regular flu shot without any reaction, there is a special flu vaccine this year for those over age 18 who are severely allergic to eggs. For younger children with mild egg allergies, the flu shot can be given in your pediatrician’s office. For more severe cases of egg allergy, your allergist can give the vaccine. Whichever vaccine you choose, all flu vaccines come with a thimerosal free option.
OK. So you don’t think getting the vaccine is worth the time, then get set for trouble. If you are otherwise healthy, the flu is probably the worst you will ever feel. The flu can cause fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills and muscle aches. Most victims are sick for a few days to a week, but some people get much sicker and may even need to be hospitalized. Believe it or not, the flu still causes thousands of deaths each year.
Now is the time to get your flu vaccine and protect yourself and your family this winter. Remember, the best way to prevent cough, sniffles, and colds in your home this winter is to make sure the whole family gets flu vaccines, washes their hands, eats healthy, exercises, gets plenty of sleep and gets regular check-ups. And make sure to see your pediatrician if you have questions! With a flu vaccine and some good living, your home can be filled with pleasant holiday music rather than the sounds of cough cough, sneeze sneeze, achoo!