How to Prevent Influenza in Children

Influenza is a common seasonal virus that is highly contagious and can be dangerous in individuals with other medical conditions. Children are especially vulnerable if they go to school or day care where many children are in close quarters together. While the flu is an annual concern for families, schools and health care professionals, there are effective ways to prevent influenza in children.


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    Consider an annual vaccination as your first line of defense in flu prevention. Flu shots are available at doctor's offices, pharmacies and clinics. Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy for Pediatrics update their guidelines for flu vaccines, so parents can determine the best course of action for their children.
    • Flu vaccines are typically recommended for children from 6 months of age up to 19 years. Vaccines are particularly essential for children younger than 5 and those with chronic health conditions like asthma and diabetes, which could create a higher risk for flu complications. The only exceptions to the vaccine recommendation include children who are allergic to eggs, those who have had an allergic reaction to the flu shot in the past and kids who are currently sick and running a fever.
    • A nasal-spray is also available for parents of some children. Vaccinating parents will help prevent them from spreading the flu to their children. The nasal spray administers a live, weakened virus, as opposed to the dead virus administered in the injection. Because it is a live virus, the nasal spray is not recommended for people who have chronic conditions like asthma, children under the age of 2 and those who have had an allergic reaction to the flu shot or eggs in the past. It is also not used for children or adolescents who are on long-term aspirin therapy.
    • In most cases, the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent getting the flu. However, it is not a foolproof method, since it is impossible for doctors to predict the precise flu strain that will circulate in any given year to make up the vaccine. For those that do get the flu after having the vaccine, symptoms of influenza are typically milder and do not last as long.
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    Recognize symptoms of influenza. If your child exhibits them (even after getting a flu vaccine), keep him home from school or day care to avoid spreading the virus. Influenza is a highly contagious virus that can be spread through airborne germs or human contact. Keeping children away from others when sick can go far in minimizing the effects of the virus.
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    Practice good hygiene habits throughout flu season to minimize exposure to the virus. Flu season typically begins around September, and may run as long as May of the following year. During this time, the virus can run rampant in some communities, especially where many people did not get the flu vaccine.
    • The CDC recommends frequent hand washing as one of the best ways to keep the flu virus at bay. In addition, the agency suggests instructing children to cover the mouth and nose when they sneeze and immediately throw used tissues away. Teach children to avoid touching the mouth, nose and eyes, where germs are easily spread. It is also important to avoid contact with others who exhibit flu symptoms or other signs of illness.


  • If your child does exhibit flu symptoms, make an appointment with the doctor right away. Antiviral medications are available to treat the flu, but must be administered within 2 days after symptoms appear. These medications won't "cure" the flu, but they can lessen symptoms and shorten the duration of the virus.

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Categories: Childhood Health