While the first line of defense many doctors recommend to avoid catching — and spreading — the flu virus is getting the flu vaccine, there are other measures children and parents can take to stay healthy at a time when a public health emergency has been declared in New York in response to the severe flu season.
Dr. Casey B. Rosen-Carole, medical director of Kingston Pediatric Care Center in upstate Kingston, recommends the vaccine to her patients “older than 6 months old, especially high risk patients such as children under 2, children with asthma and those with some kinds of immune problems.” She also recommends the vaccine to “parents and families as well, especially for families of babies too young to get vaccinated (under 6 months old).”
“However, flu vaccine effectiveness also varies by age, health of the patient and sometimes type of vaccine used. Children under 8 who haven't been vaccinated in the past need 2 flu shots 1 month apart in order to achieve good immunity,” she said.
Besides getting a shot in the arm, “infection control” is also essential, Dr. Rosen-Carole said. Here are a few tips she shared:
- Staying more than 6 feet away from anyone with the flu
- Frequent hand washing
- Keeping drinks, toothbrushes, towels and meals to oneself
- Teaching children to cover their coughs in their elbows
- Washing hands after blowing their noses
Also, she added, “Children with fever should be kept out of day cares and school for at least 24 hours after it resolves so as not to spread more of the virus. We know that kids actually shed viruses longer than adults, so keeping kids out a little longer is something that could be considered.”
In addition to these measures, Dr. Rosen-Carole recommends “getting your vitamin D, especially in the winter when we don't get a lot of sun exposure, and vitamin C to keep the immune system healthy. A vitamin D supplement is recommended for all kids, at least 400IU daily, and a glass of OJ or citrus fruits is a good source of C. Keeping healthy by eating a balanced diet and getting lots of exercise we know helps immunity, even going outside in the snow! Spending the winter on a couch in front of the TV with junk food should be avoided! That, and hand washing.”