A pediatrician shares tips on how to prevent your family from getting the flu.
With the flu season breaking records, everyone is scrambling to keep the virus at bay. Pediatricians especially are seeing huge traffic in their offices as the number of children who have died from the flu continues to rise. “This year is pretty bad,” Dr. Shilpa Patel, a pediatrician in Rockleigh, New Jersey says. “Parents are panicking.”
Beyond getting a flu shot, here are Patel’s most important tips for families and kids:
–Keep sick kids home
“Don’t send them to school,” Patel urged. “They infect everybody else and we really don’t want the parents to be doing that. So keep them home if they’re sick, and go to your pediatrician rather than clogging up the emergency rooms.”
Kids can generally go back to school if they’ve had 24 hours without a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, she notes. But use your instinct: If you think your child doesn’t look right, stay home or take them to the doctor.
–Go to the doctor
With so many casualties from the flu this year, many parents want to take their kids to the doctor at the first sign of a cough or cold. “That’s fine,” Dr. Patel says, “because a lot of times, I just say to the parents, ‘Look, if you’re worried, just bring them in, let me listen to the hearts and lungs and make sure there’s no infection.’ That’s the biggest thing that you’re worried about with flu,” she says.
–Teach kids to cough and sneeze properly
Patel tells kids to pull their shirt out and sneeze or cough into it to prevent the virus from spreading. And, If anybody else is coughing or sneezing, also pull your shirt out, cover your face and walk the other way, she advises.
–Tell Kids not to touch their eyes, noses or mouths whever possible
–Don’t kiss anyone of the face
Instead, kiss the back of the head, especially when it comes to newborns and younger babies. “If you are going to be sick, you’re contagious three days before you get your cold symptoms,” Patel warns.
To prevent spreading germs, Patel says to “Lysol everything — any surface in the house a child may have touched.” Frequent hand-washing—particularly after touching things like faucets handles, doorknobs, etc. is also very important.
–Watch your child’s reaction to a fever
If you give your child a medication like Tylenol or Motrin, and the fever calms down, he or she should perk up and begin to act normal again, Patel says. If the fever has come down, but your child is lethargic and not moving, he or she needs to be seen by a doctor immediately, Patel says.