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  • Writer's pictureTy Bailey

Keeping Your Kids Healthy During Flu Season

The fall and winter months may bring in cooler weather, but they also bring in a lot of annual illness as well. Here's what you need to know to help keep your child healthy and avoid the spread of the influenza virus.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

The flu is a very contagious respiratory disease that can have effects on the entire body. The most common symptoms of the flu are as follows:

  • Body aches (may be severe)

  • Cough (which will worsen)

  • Fatigue/sleepiness

  • Fever (may reach up to 103°F-105°F)

  • Headaches

  • Sore throat

  • Stuffy or runny nose

Additional bothersome symptoms your child may experience include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

If the illness becomes severe, your child may be at risk of experiencing the following serious complications and will require immediate medical attention:

If appropriate medical treatment is not sought for children with a severe case of the flu and its associated symptoms, this virus may even prove to be fatal in some instances. Influenza is the reason for thousands of child hospitalizations each year, and it is not a virus that should be taken lightly, especially in those below the age of five.

How long does the flu last in children?

Influenza infection often lasts between one to two weeks. However, lingering fatigue (and possibly a few other mild symptoms) may persist until three to four weeks after having initially become infected.

Preventative measures to avoid catching the flu

Children are notorious for beings hands-on in all situations, and this includes touching people and surfaces in public settings and promptly bringing any potential germs right back to their faces before sanitization is possible. This is simply part of childhood and might as well be considered unavoidable.

However, there are some preventative measures that parents and caregivers may take to ensure the best possible health for their little ones, reduce the risk of infection, and boost their immune systems for when they do manage to catch something like the flu.

Boosting your child's immune system

Although encouraging your child of any age to make healthy choices on a regular basis is important (and also quite difficult), this is even more significant when flu season rolls around and colds begin to run rampant in communities. Children do need to experience sickness for the sake of building up immunity to certain viruses as they grow older, but ensuring good overall and immune health is a top priority so they can safely fight such illnesses off without complications.

  1. Make sure your child is getting the appropriate amount of sleep. Lack of sleep impairs the immune system and makes a person much more likely to get sick.

  2. Reduce stress levels. Encourage your child to engage in calmer activities during the day to lower their levels of stress hormones, as these particular hormones can lower immunity. If they are old enough to understand, practice deep breathing or other mindfulness exercises to alleviate some of their stress.

  3. Engage in regular exercise. Whether it's running around outdoors or playing inside and staying active, physical activity is essential for keeping the body's immune system strong. However, be sure not to let them overdo it, as this will be counterproductive.

  4. Encourage them to eat a well-balanced diet. This may be one of the hardest parts of raising kids, especially for those with picky eaters, but getting the right balance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and more is essential in proper development as well as boosting immunity. If your kids refuse to eat anything besides Cheese Puffs right now, see if they'd be willing to take a gummy multi-vitamin or drink some meal replacement shakes alongside their puffs-only diet to remotely counter their unfortunate (but common) eating habits.

Practicing good hygiene

After the events of the past two years, practicing good hygiene has become much more of a priority in nearly all communities. Although it's been recommended for years that those at risk wear masks and everyone be extra cautious about touching surfaces and washing their hands frequently during flu seasons, it's thankfully become common practice now.

There are also quite a few things you can discuss with your children to help them learn to be aware of how they may get sick or spread sickness to others.

  • Be mindful of sharing. Although everyone hopes their child is willing to share with others, it's important to remind kids that not everything needs to be shared.

  • Personal items (such as cups, hats, or other objects that come into contact with your child's face) are considerably more "germy" than your child sharing a toy or a jacket with a friend. Try to emphasize which items are okay to let their friends borrow (those that stay away from the face and can be easily cleaned) and which should only be used for themselves.

  • If your child is sick or around a child that is sick, try to limit the amount of sharing and interaction that takes place to avoid infection. It may not always be possible to keep your child home when they're sick, but if it is possible, they should be kept home to rest and avoid spreading illness to others.

  • Proper (and frequent) hand washing. As was mentioned before, children are notorious for being touchy and excessively hands-on. This is why teaching them how to properly wash their hands (and encouraging them to do so frequently) is so important. Emphasize the importance of handwashing after using the bathroom, playing outside, playing indoors with other kids, and before doing things like eating or any other activities that would place their hands near their faces. (And yes, sanitizer is fine if you're out and about with your little one.)

Getting your annual flu shot

Vaccines are a touchy topic, but we here at Tired Mama Resources believe that it's important for us to do our part in keeping our community healthy. Not all people can receive vaccines, and many of these individuals are at a higher risk of complications from catching something like the flu.

In general, any person over the age of 6 months is eligible to receive a flu vaccine.

However. there are exceptions (such as those with certain allergies and certain health conditions) that should not receive one of the vaccines. For more information on whether or not the flu shot may be safe for you, please refer to the CDC's website.

If you and your child are healthy enough to receive an annual flu vaccine, the achy arm you'll have for just a few days is far more tolerable than the severe illness you may develop by contracting the influenza virus without the boosted immunity from the vaccine to counteract the worst of the symptoms.

Please speak to your primary care physician or your child's pediatrician for more information.

Additional Resources

At Tired Mama Resources, we're here to help provide as much information as possible to parents and caregivers that have questions about their child's health and wellbeing. However, although we try our best to cite credible sources for the information provided, the information on our website should not be substituted for seeking medical care or treatment for a child (or adult) experiencing any symptoms of illness.

If you suspect that you or your child may have the flu or another similar illness, please speak with your physician and your child's pediatrician for further guidance.

Please refer to the following websites for additional information regarding the flu, its symptoms, when to seek medical attention, preventative measures, and more:

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