Seeing that most of the United States is experiencing freezing weather and flu is on the rise and kids are all back in school, it is appropriate to discuss good handwashing and cough hygiene to try and keep everyone healthy. Flu season typically peaks in January and February, so unfortunately the worst is yet to come.
The predominant strain of flu that is circulating right now is Influenza A H1N1 (yes, the old swine flu). Fortunately, this strain of flu is a component of this years flu vaccine. (Surely you have gotten your flu shot/mist by now, but if not run and get it!). The CDC sends out a weekly flu report and as of now there are 20-25 states with widespread flu activity The flu is currently more prevalent in the southern states and spreading north.
Besides the flu vaccine the best prevention for flu continues to be good handwashing. This is the time of year that many of us have chapped hands due to the cold dry weather and frequent handwashing. Using antibacterial gels is also a good way to prevent germs from spreading and may not cause as much drying. Try not to touch your own face with your hands as those pesky viruses enter our bodies through our nose, eyes and mouth and keeping hands away from the face is helpful. With that being said, how do you keep a child's hands away from their face??? Another reason that young children pick up so many viruses.
If your children are feeling badly and have any fever they need to stay home from day care and school. Many people don't realize that you start shedding virus even before you are actually sick and once you feel badly staying home is a must!!! Dosing your child with tylenol/ibuprofen before sending them to day care doesn't help anyone, and your child will be much more comfortable at home. The rule of thumb is no return to school or day care until your child has been fever free for at least 24 hours (without any fever medication).
Teenager are notorious for wanting to go to school no matter what.....as they get so far behind if they miss all of those difficult classes. The problem is they too spread the flu, even if they are good about covering their mouth and washing hands. Your teen needs to stay home as well if they are running a fever, no excuses about a calculus test or basketball game.
To date there have been 6 pediatric deaths secondary to influenza. Get your child their flu vaccine and make sure that if you have an infant they get their second dose of flu vaccine 4 weeks after their first. You need both doses to have immunity the first year your young child receives a flu vaccine.
I'll keep you posted with flu news.
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