Each year, influenza (flu) is a big topic of discussion for all age groups. For the unlucky ones who suffer from the flu, it is bigger than just a discussion. That’s why it is recommended that everyone six months of age and older receive the flu vaccination. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “The single best way to protect your children from the flu is to get them vaccinated each year.” The vaccination protects against the three most common flu viruses, as determined by experts from Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other institutions.
While everyone is encouraged to get the vaccination, it is especially important for high-risk children including those younger than five, and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, brain or nervous system disorders, and other serious conditions. In addition, it’s important for caregivers to know some children need two doses, particularly if they are receiving the vaccination for the first time. Healthcare providers should be consulted to determine if two doses are necessary. Also be aware that some people should not receive the flu vaccine due to egg allergies, severe past reactions to the vaccine, or moderate to severe illness with a fever.
To prevent complications associated with the flu, the CDC recommends that children be vaccinated as soon as the flu vaccine is available. Peak flu season is generally January or February, but it can begin earlier and last until May. Early vaccination means protecting the child by the time flu season starts, as it takes approximately two weeks for the vaccination to take full effect. The 2012-2013 flu vaccine is currently available, and Flu.gov makes it easy to find flu clinics near you.
In addition to the vaccination, Flu.gov also recommends the following steps to stop the spread of germs:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people
- Practice good health habits: get plenty of sleep, exercise, healthy foods, and fluids, and manage your stress
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash after use
- If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, without the use of fever-reducing medicine