January is here and so is the height of flu season. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the statistics from the 2018 season and they are sobering: an estimated 80,000 Americans died of the flu last season (approximately 12,000 die in a normal year). Additionally, 180 of the reported deaths were children, the highest reported childhood flu death toll ever. The CDC also said 80 percent of the children who died of the flu were not vaccinated.
As a parent, flu season is always a challenging time of the year. While it has been a relatively quiet season so far, the CDC reports cases are picking up around the country. Hospitalizations have also increased, especially for children ages birth to 4.
“We are always concerned about making sure our patients get their flu vaccine every year,” said Dr. Lourdes Pitocchi of 24/7 Pediatric Care Centers. “It is imperative every eligible child older than 6 months receives a flu shot as soon as possible.”
One of the best ways to help prevent your child from contracting the flu is to be proactive. Here are Dr. Pitocchi’s top tips:
According to the CDC, everyone 6 months and older needs to get a yearly vaccine. Parents and guardians should follow this recommendation, since they can easily pass along the virus. The vaccine is prepared yearly to combat the strains expected to cause the biggest problem. Sometimes the vaccines miss the mark, meaning your vaccinated child can still get the flu, but it’s still a good practice to follow.
“The CDC reports that this year’s vaccine is particularly effective at fighting off influenza strain A H1N1 and is as much as 65 percent effective,” said Pitocchi.
Practice Good Hygiene
You and your child should frequently wash your hands with soap and water, particularly during flu season. Have them wash their hands after going out in public where the flu virus lurks. If they are around anyone who is sick, have them wash their hands.
“Handwashing is especially important,” said Pitocchi. “While hand sanitizer can be an effective after-handwashing second step, hand sanitizer should not be used alone to clean hands.”
Remind them not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth. Your preschool child will have a particularly difficult time with this, but you can try to minimize the behavior. You should also regularly disinfect toys as well as bathroom and kitchen surfaces to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
Keep Your Child Away From Others Who Are Sick
Don’t make your child a hermit but do keep them away from sick people as much as possible. That means no visiting family when one of the cousins is ill. Cancel playdates if necessary and try to avoid public places where many other potentially sick children may be playing.
If someone in your home becomes ill, keep them separate from the rest of the family. This can be especially tricky with young siblings, but try to get creative about keeping the one that is recovering away from the ones that aren’t sick.
“Additionally, if taken early enough in the flu sickness, antiviral medications are effective at reducing symptoms, duration and severity of the flu,” said Pitocchi. “Some medications are approved for children as young as 2 weeks old.”
The CDC recommends staying home for a full 24 hours after fever has been reduced naturally and not with fever-reducing drugs like aspirin or Tylenol.
Overall Good Health
A healthy immune system protects against catching colds and the flu. Encourage your child to exercise regularly and eat a well-balanced diet. When healthy children do catch the flu, they are better able to fight off its debilitating effects. They will be less likely to end up in the hospital or have a prolonged recovery period. “You should also maintain your health, said Pitocchi. “You don’t want to be the one who brings the virus home to your child.”
More About 24/7 Pediatric Care Centers
24/7 Pediatric Care Centers recently moved its Clay County location to an expanded and upgraded medical office in Fleming Island bringing convenience in pediatric healthcare to the area. Modern families demand flexibility for their hectic schedules. 24/7 is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for visits and offers service around-the-clock for emergencies. 24/7 Pediatric Care Centers has revolutionized pediatric care in the region since 2005.
24/7 Pediatric Care Centers has three locations across the First Coast. The Baymeadows office of Centers is open 24 hours every day of the year. Patients of its Fleming Island and Jacksonville Beach locations have access to this unique pediatric care service, the only one in the market. For more information, visit 24hourkidcare.com.