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Children’s Experts Say Battling the Flu Begins With a Good Defense

The holidays are approaching, and that means flu season is upon us, but doctors at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC are reassuring parents that a good defense will go a long way toward keeping their kids healthy this winter.

The good news is that the flu vaccine is in abundant supply, according to Marian Michaels, MD, MPH, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital.

“Developing the right habits for kids is a key to preventing the flu. Toddlers and young children are the major spreaders of respiratory illnesses, including influenza,” said Dr. Michaels, also an associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “It is important for parents to remember that underlying diseases and very young age, particularly infants, also equal higher risk factors for more severe influenza.”

Because of this, Dr. Michaels recommends that family members of infants and those children with underlying diseases be immunized as well. “This is particularly true for families that have infants less than 6 months of age, who are too young to be immunized themselves,” she said.

Dr. Michaels said that aside from vaccination, there are several other things children can do to help avoid the flu, and parents play an important role in helping kids understand the importance:

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water or antibacterial hand gels.
  • Keep commonly touched surfaces clean (doorknobs, phones, etc.).
  • Teach children to turn their heads to cough and sneeze into a tissueor into their upper arm.
  • Avoid exposure to others who have a cold or the flu.
  • Do not share anything that goes into the mouth (straws, drinking cups, etc.).

Flu vaccination is recommended for all children ages 6 months up to 5 years; and also children over 6 months with chronic illnesses (such as lung or heart disease or immune deficiencies). If a child suffers from a severe egg allergy, talk to your doctor to see if he or she should not get vaccinated.

Dr. Michaels adds that the nasal mist vaccine is very effective for children ages 2 and older who are not immunosuppressed or with other severe diseases, but you should check with your doctor to make sure it is covered by insurance.

Flu season typically begins in late fall, peaks in January or February and is over by March or April. Each year, the flu kills 36,000 people and hospitalizes another 200,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If a young person experiences flu symptoms this season, parents should contact their child’s pediatrician, who will guide them on the best course of action.

 

Contacts:

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016, Marc.Lukasiak@chp.edu
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016, Melanie.Finnigan@chp.edu

Last Update
November 7, 2013
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Last Update
November 7, 2013
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