Pediatric HealthSource: Flu Prevention

Matthew Washam, M.D.

Q: The flu has been going around at my son’s school. What can I do to help prevent him from getting sick?

A: Influenza, commonly known as “the flu,” is an illness caused by a virus. It is spread through air particles that can be passed around when a person coughs, sneezes or even laughs.

When a healthy person encounters these particles by doing everyday things such as touching doorknobs or picking up toys, they can spread the disease to themselves by touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Children in school can easily catch the flu because they are in close contact with many other people. The flu virus can live on some surfaces, such as desks and toys, for up to two days.

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The best way to protect your child from getting the flu is to take them to get their flu shot. The flu vaccine is recommended for children ages six months and older. There are many common myths about the flu vaccine, but the truth is it is a safe and effective method that can save your child’s life. While most people will recover from the flu within a few weeks, complications of the flu can include sinus and ear infections, inflammation of the heart, pneumonia and other conditions that can result in serious illness or even death. While peak flu season usually begins around December, it is never too late to receive a flu shot and protect your family against the virus.

You also can help your family stay safe by promoting good hygiene. Teach children to avoid putting objects in their mouth and avoid rubbing their eyes to decrease the risk for infection. Washing hands often with soap and water is especially important during flu season. Disinfect objects your child touches frequently.

Always consult your child’s pediatrician concerning your child’s health.

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Matthew Washam, .M.D, is the medical director of epidemiology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Teach your child healthy hygiene to decrease the risk for infections. Here are three easy tips:

  • Do not share drinks. Using color-coded cups and assigning a color to a child can help prevent children from taking a drink that isn’t theirs.
  • Teach children to cough into their arms instead of hands. Coughing and sneezing in their hands and then touching other objects can increase the risk of infection.
  • Make it fun. Using games and songs to encourage hand washing and other healthy hygiene practices will help to reinforce this behavior. There are tons of great resources available for this online.

Hygiene Tips