Flu-proof your kids

October 03, 2016 - 09:00

Brace yourselves: flu season is on its way to Hanoi.

Dr. Philippe Jean Collin. — Photo courtesy of Family Medical Practice Hanoi
Viet Nam News

Doctor Philippe Jean Collin*

Brace yourselves: flu season is on its way to Hanoi.

Children are already showing subtle signs of flu, including subdued coughs and stuffy noses. When flu season strikes, your children can be right in the line of fire. Kids are usually the first in a community to get sick with influenza. They’re more likely than adults to catch the flu when they’re exposed to it. And they’re usually to blame for circulating the virus. In addition to coughing, fever and aches, children with flu may also suffer from stomach pain, earaches and even convulsions.

Here are six tips to keep in mind to help your kids get through flu season:

1. Make sure your child gets this season’s flu vaccine.

Immunise your child against influenza. This is your best bet to keep your child flu-free. The flu shot is up to 90 percent effective for healthy kids. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for children 6 months and older. 

If your child is less than nine years old and this is her/his first flu shot, she/he should have a second dose in four weeks.

Babies under six months of age cannot be vaccinated, so it’s a good idea to get your own flu shot to protect your little rug-rats.

The virus strains can change every year, so last year’s vaccine may not be effective against this year’s virus strains.

The 2016-2017 flu vaccine contains: A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus; A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus; and B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.


2. Teach your child hygiene

Washing your hands is another proven method of stopping the spread of germs. Teach your children to wash their hands before they eat, after using the bathroom, and whenever their hands are dirty. Teach kids to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds - about as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song.

Hand sanitiser comes in handy, but young children need to be watched carefully to make sure they rub their hands until they’re dry. Otherwise, they may be ingesting alcohol and other ingredients the next time they put their hands in their mouths.


3. Keep your house clean

Flu viruses can live up to 8 hours, so try to eliminate germs from toys, handles, counters, tables, phones, TV remotes, etc. Use hot soapy water or a cleaning product to kill germs.


4. Don’t be a carrier

Flu germs can be spread up to 2 metres by coughing and sneezing. Teach children to cover their mouths and noses with tissue when they sneeze or cough, then throw away the tissue. Make sure they wash their hands afterwards!

Kids often catch the flu from their parents. If you already have the flu, you can unwittingly pass germs to your children during the course of your regular parenting duties, such as wiping noses, holding hands, changing diapers or preparing food. Try to minimise the risk by washing your hands frequently.

Keep your kids home if they are sick and discourage sick kids from visiting. If the rest of the family is already sick, "quarantine" children without symptoms to keep them away from the flu virus.

If flu is hitting your home hard, avoid large crowds. Cancel play dates, postpone birthday parties, and avoid going to the movies or out for dinner until things settle down.


5. Stay healthy

The healthier you are, the better you are able to deal with anything that comes up, including the flu virus. Good nutrition, moderate exercise (one hour of physical activity on most days of the week), and adequate rest help optimise the immune system. Offer your child a well-balanced diet, including fruits, vegetables, milk and water. Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep (at least 10 hours for school-age children and 12 hours for toddlers).


6.  For kids with flu, treat the symptoms and keep them comfortable

Home remedies should include rest and plenty of fluids.  Fever reducers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help. But remember to avoid aspirin, which can cause a serious illness called Reye’s Syndrome in children with a viral illness. — Family Medical Practice Hanoi



* French pediatrician Dr. Philippe Jean Collin works at Family Medical Practice Hanoi. He is a member of the French Society of Pediatrics, the American Society of Nephrologists, and the Pediatric Academy Societies. Family Medical Practice Hanoi provides influenza vaccinations which comply with WHO recommendations for the northern hemisphere for the 2016/2017 flu season. For more information or medical advice, please contact: hanoi@vietnammedicalpractice.com