Children are at an increased risk for suffering from diseases owing to their tender age and lack of appropriate immunity. When it comes to flu, children are especially prone to getting sick owing to the easy spread of the virus.
The first tool in your fight against a disease is the skill of implementing the right knowledge and (essentially) at the right time. While you should not consider this write up as medical advice, which should essentially be obtained from a doctor, this can help you be better prepared to face and deal with the flu.
Flu Spread Among Children
Flu is a highly infectious disease and children are easy prey to the flu virus. Infected droplets, which can be acquired through coughing, sneezing, etc., get inhaled by children to cause flu. Direct contact can also spread the virus. The day before symptoms begin and 5-7 days there after being ill can be highly risky for spreading the infection. Young children, and those having highly weakened immune systems, may infect others for longer than 5-7 days.
School is a major platform for exchange of flu virus from one child to another. Sharing pencils, sharing utensils, using the computer and hand to hand contact are some ways which can cause the flu virus to spread. When children have flu, they should remain at home unless healthy again. Even while at home, they should avoid close association/contact with others.
Danger and Complications of Flu For Children
Flu (influenza) can affect beyond the common cold and produce damaging outcomes, sometimes death. Many complications of flu are common in children below 2 years of age; this increases the need for protecting them from flu even more. Complications arising out of flu include ear infection, pneumonia and sinus infection.
Children suffering from acute health problems including diabetes and asthma are at high risk of developing serious flu complications. Although flu can vary in severity, death can occur. Consult your doctor immediately when you observe symptoms of flu.
Treatment of Flu Symptoms in Children
Flu treatment can be accomplished through several ways including using over-the-counter medicines and home remedies. Antibiotics, which are effective for treating bacterial infections, are not of much help. Aspirin is also not used for treating flu in children and teenagers; it can cause brain and liver damage. Antiviral medications may help when given within two days of falling sick. Before implementing any medicine(s), consult your doctor as small children (particularly below 5 years) can suffer from serious adverse effects from them.
Home remedies include drinking sufficient fluids and taking enough rest. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be used to control fever and pain. For congestion in small children, a nasal bulb can be used to remove mucus.
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Feeding Children During Flu
When children suffer from ill health, they easily give up food and can grow weak. You should not force children to eat. make sure to give them plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and provide adequate nutrition. Bland foods may be better consumed by children suffering from the flu. Give them foods which are soft, less spicy, and low in fiber. You can try bread, pasta (made with refined white flour) and oatmeal. Avoid giving too much fruit and apple juice. Should you give them, dilute them first in fifty-fifty ratio (half juice, half water).
Protection of Children From Flu
Vaccination is the best way to protect children from the flu. Children 6 months and above should get vaccine for flu. Vaccine can be obtained as a shot or nasal spray. The flu shot, which injects killed viruses, does not give flu to children. Children 6 months and older can get the vaccine.
The other vaccine, nasal spray, introduces live (but weakened) virus as against the dead ones used in flu shot. Children above 2 years of age can have this form of vaccine. The flu vaccine has special significance for children who are at an increased risk for the illness. These include – children below 5 years of age, children (any age) having a long-term health condition such as diabetes or asthma. The flu vaccine, however, cannot (and should not) be given to every child. Exceptions include children having chronic respiratory diseases like repeated wheezing episodes and asthma.
Adults who are closely associated with children, like caregivers, should also protect themselves from flu by getting the vaccine so that they do not act as carriers of the virus. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for the antibodies to develop and provide protection, getting vaccine early (depending upon availability) is a good idea.
Preventing Flu in Children
Influenza can lead to more hospitalizations of young children as compared to any other vaccine-preventable illness. The ideal preventive tool is to get seasonal vaccine for flu every year. Depending upon children’s age and suitability, you can choose between a flu shot or nasal spray. Children above 2 years of age who are healthy (no wheezing or history of asthma) may get the nasal spray influenza vaccine. Children 6 months and older can get the flu shot.
Healthy choices, both at school and at home, can help in preventing the flu and spreading the virus. When coughing or sneezing, children should use a disposable tissue. They can also use a face mask to avoid getting/spreading the infection. Washing hands frequently with soap and water can also keep hands clear off the virus. An alcohol based hand wash/rub may be used. Avoid contacting eyes, mouth and nose if infection is suspected. Children should be kept at home for at least 1 day after the fever goes away without using a fever-reducing medicine. They should avoid close contact with others to avoid spreading the virus. Inform school authority when children get sick so that they take appropriate measures to keep classrooms clean and provide adequate hygiene through paper towels and soap. This is particularly significant in limiting the spread of the virus.
Clean and disinfect frequently used objects so that they are free of germs. Pregnant women should get vaccinated after consulting their doctor. Caregivers of children should also consider getting the vaccine. Involve others in caring for a sick child so that there is enough spread of information to others as well.