Influenza, more commonly known as “the flu” can be dangerous for medically fragile infants and children. Flu season typically runs October through May, putting us right in the midst of it. Reports show it’s currently making its mark in the Orlando area. Florida Health recently stated that we are experiencing a moderately severe influenza season. Although the flu is highly contagious there are ways to protect you and your family!
The Flu is an upper respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. It infects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Illness with the flu is typically mild to severe. Medically fragile infants and children are at a higher risk of complications due to their health issues. Common complications that are brought on by the flu are bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions.
The Flu typically has a sudden onset and is accompanied by the following symptoms:
It is most common for people to spread and contract the flu virus from particles that leave the infected when they cough, sneeze or talk. However, the flu can also be spread when you touch a surface that someone who was sick with the flu previously touched.
The contagious period of the flu varies depending on the person who has it. Typically people are most contagious within the first 3-4 days after their illness begins. Healthy adults can even be contagious from day one before they notice any symptoms. People with a weak immune system can possibly be contagious for a longer period.
Medically fragile infants and children are at higher risk for contracting the flu and complications brought on by it. As their parent or caregiver, it’s your responsibility to do what you can to keep them healthy. Protecting yourself from the flu is your greatest chance of protecting them from it. If you’re able to avoid the virus it will reduce their chance of getting it. Luckily there are preventative methods to staying healthy during flu season.
The flu shot is an annual vaccination that reduces your chances of contracting the virus. While it’s highly recommended to get the flu shot at the beginning of the season (October) it’s not too late! Everyone in your family should get a flu shot. You can schedule an appointment with your primary physician or go to a walk-in clinic. Places with a pharmacy also have the capability of giving you the flu shot. These are places like Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart. Most insurances cover the flu shot, however, they are fairly affordable if you have to pay out of pocket, around $25 – $45.
The flu virus is spread through indirect contact, meaning if someone who’s sick sneezes, then touches something, the next person to touch it may get it. The best way to prevent spreading or getting the flu is by washing your hands!
Best practices for washing hands:
A strong immune system can protect you from the flu. Drinking water keeps you hydrated and flushes toxins from your body. Getting plenty of rest and proper nutrition also boosts your body’s defenses.
The flu virus can survive on common surfaces for up to 72 hours. It’s important to frequently disinfect surfaces such as:
Disinfecting is different than cleaning. Cleaning removes germs, however, it does not always kill them. Disinfecting actually kills germs. To ensure you are disinfecting items and surfaces look at your cleaner’s label. It should say it kills the influenza virus. Cleaning wipes are great to have on hand during flu season. They are easy to grab and frequently disinfect items and surfaces.
While this is not the easiest thing to do, it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent getting the flu. Do your best to avoid close contact with people who are sick. Encourage family members, friends, and co-workers to kindly let you know if they are sick. Do your best to avoid heavily populated areas such as airports during the flu season. Avoiding the doctor’s office is also a great way to avoid the flu since their offices are crawling with germs!
Even with preventive measures, there’s still a chance you might get the flu. At the first sign of symptoms, head straight to the doctors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends antiviral treatment be taken as soon as possible once you are confirmed with having the flu. They also suggest people with suspected influenza who are at higher risk for complications such as medically fragile infants and children begin and antiviral treatment as well. For effectiveness, treatment should be administered within 48 hours of symptoms.
If you notice any of these signs in the person who has the flu, obtain medical care right away. If symptoms or signs other than the ones listed below are severe or concerning, consult your medical provider. These warning signs were taken directly from the CDC website.
Warning Signs in Children
Warning Signs in Adults
At ChildrenFirst, we pride ourselves in providing safe and quality care to medically fragile infants and children. During flu season, it’s important to us to educate others on how to avoid getting the flu. We do our best to clean and disinfect our facilities to maintain a healthy environment for all infants and children in our care. If you are in need of services for your medically fragile infant or child, we would love to connect with you.