Preventing flu in children is more important than ever as we begin a new in-person school year during a pandemic. Doctors warn the convergence of the COVID Delta variant and flu viruses may overwhelm already stretched pediatric hospital wards this fall. Children’s hospitals regularly fill up with pediatric patients struggling with influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and other respiratory illnesses.
While nearly 50% of kids appeared to be asymptomatic to COVID last fall, the Delta variant is beginning to worry doctors. Not only is it highly transmittable, but it appears to be making more children sick. This is especially troubling on the cusp of flu season because it is possible to contract both COVID (or any variant) and the flu simultaneously.
Flu prevention for kids
Now that adults and children will be headed back into the classroom, learning tips for preventing flu in children is important to help keep everyone healthy this Fall. Here are a few ways that will help keep people from getting sick:
- Get the flu vaccine
The single best way to reduce the risk of seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications is to get vaccinated each year. The flu vaccine is very safe. In fact, hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines for more than 50 years, and the body of scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports their safety.
- Avoid close contact
Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. When you’re sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Stay home
If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, stay home from work, school and errands. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
- Cover your mouth and nose
The average cough or sneeze can send about 100,000 contagious germs into the air at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. These germs can carry viruses like influenza, COVID, RSV and adenoviruses, which cause the common cold. Cover your nose and mouth to protect those around you.
- Wash your hands
Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your face
Germs love mucous membranes. When you touch your face, the germs on your hands attach to the eyes, nose and mouth, which can lead to serious infections like COVID, flu and RSV.
- Practice healthy habits
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is sick. Wipe down things like faucets, light switches, door handles, remotes, phones or any other high touch surface.
Tips for staying healthy in fall and winter
Here are a few simple practices to boost your immunity and protect you from colds and flu:
- Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation negatively impacts your immune system’s ability to fight off infection. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night, and school-aged children need between 9-12 hours of sleep every night.
- Eat healthy foods
Maintaining a healthy diet helps keep the immune system balanced and ready to fight against infection and viruses. Fill your plate with plenty of delicious leafy green vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats. Limit your daily intake of foods that are high in sodium (salt), sugar and fat.
- Move your body
Physical activity increases blood flow throughout your body and boosts immune function. It can also help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airway, which can help reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu or other illnesses like COVID.
- Reduce stress
Stress creates a hormone in your body called cortisol, which suppresses your immune system’s effectiveness in fighting off illness. Stress can lower the number of natural lymphocytes in the body, which are needed to fight viruses.
If you or your child has flu symptoms that aren’t improving or seem to be getting worse, contact Coastal Urgent Care of Ruston for medical advice. Some flu symptoms are similar to COVID-19, making it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. We offer Rapid COVID testing to determine if you currently have the COVID virus 7 days a week.
We are open for walk-in appointments 7 days/week (Mon-Fri 8 a.m.–7 p.m., Sat-Sun 9 a.m.–6 p.m.).