It’s flu season and while no one wants to get sick, for children the flu can be especially debilitating. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts a number on it: More than 20,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 5 are hospitalized each year due to flu complications. But children aren’t the only group at increased risk from the flu; pregnant women are also more likely to become severely ill from it compared to healthy women who are not pregnant.
The best defense against the flu and its potentially severe complications is with the annual flu vaccine. Children younger than 6 months of are at the highest risk for being hospitalized from the illness, but are too young to get a flu vaccine, which is why protecting them from the flu is especially important. By getting vaccinated, family members and caregivers are less likely to get the flu, and therefore less likely to spread the flu to children they care for. Further, parents should contact their children’s childcare facilities to request all staff be immunized, if they haven’t been already.
In addition to reducing potential risks in some pregnancies, like premature labor and delivery, studies have shown that vaccinating pregnant women can also protect newborns from flu after birth. The antibodies mothers pass on to their developing babies will protect against flu for several months after birth. Women who are pregnant can safely get a flu shot during any trimester of their pregnancy to protect themselves and their babies from the flu. At Burdett Care Center, we offer the flu shot to caregivers and recommend family members make appointments to be vaccinated before the birth of new babies.
During the winter months, the flu shot isn’t the only way to prevent the spread of flu. Preventative actions, like hand washing, frequent disinfecting of surfaces, and covering your cough and sneeze, should not be overlooked and can help stop the spread of infection. If you begin to feel flu symptoms, including a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, fatigue, or vomiting and diarrhea, see a doctor and try to minimize contact with children in your care as much as possible.
The flu vaccine isn’t the only shot that is important for moms, dads and caregivers. In order to curb the spread of preventable diseases, all parents and caregivers should be up to date on vaccines, including the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine; varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, and the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (TDAP) vaccine.
For more information, please consult your provider and child’s pediatrician about which vaccinations are recommended for you and your child.