This content has been clinically reviewed by Andi Shane, MD.
You don’t need us to tell you that the flu is no fun, especially for kids.
Icky symptoms like high-grade fevers, chills, headaches, runny nose, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite and sore throat can sideline our children for days at a time. The flu also has the potential to develop into pneumonia – an infection of the lungs – without proper rest and care.
Thankfully, there’s plenty we can do as parents to keep our children from being one of the millions who get sick with the flu each year, starting with these six tips.
1. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot. Making sure that your child and everyone who cares for him/her gets an annual flu shot is one of the best ways to help everyone stay flu-free. The influenza vaccine, which should be given every year to offer the most up-to-date protection, helps your child build up antibodies to the flu virus, protecting him from getting sick. Some children younger than 8 years of age will need two flu shots, 1 month apart, if this is their first year to receive flu vaccine.
2. Make hand-hygiene a priority. Before and after eating, after playing on the playground, after using the restroom, after coming home from school, after touching your mouth or nose – hand-hygiene is one of the simplest and most effective ways to stop the spread of germs. Have your child use soap and warm water, and make sure he lathers up for about 20 seconds (or the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice) You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to keep little hands clean.
3. Beef up your child’s immune system. A strong immune system is a great defense against any type of illness, including the flu. To give your child’s immunity a boost, make sure he gets enough sleep at night (usually between 8-10 hours), eats a well-rounded diet full of fruits and veggies and gets around an hour of physical activity each day.
4. Steer clear of other sick children as much as possible. When kids are in close quarters (on the bus, on the playground, in the classroom, in the locker room after practice) it’s easy to spread germs. And if your child does get sick, keep him home until he’s fever-free for at least 24 hours. Also, babies and the elderly are especially susceptible to the flu virus, so avoid any close contact with those populations, too, if your child gets sick.