Last year in my medical practice, I was in the unfortunate position of caring for many children stricken with the flu. Two such children stand out; innocent, sweet babies who unluckily contracted the flu virus who were unvaccinated. One was too young to be vaccinated, as she was not yet 6 months of age. Nothing prepares you to see a baby fighting for their life, no matter how often you see it.
Did you know that 10-20% of Canadians get sick with the flu each year? And 12,200 people are hospitalized for complications and severe infection, and 3,500 people DIE a year from flu? These are large numbers! Flu can KILL YOU!
There are some easy ways to prevent your kids from catching the flu. Most you know, but sometimes a little reminder helps!
Keep your hands clean
I know you’ve heard it a million times, but washing your hands with soap and water, or using a sanitizing gel —and doing it often—really does decrease the risk of getting infections. Wash for 20 seconds or more (as long as it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice!)
Keep your hands away from your face
Teach your kids to avoid touching their nose, mouth, and eyes whenever possible. This is how bacteria and viruses take hold—by entering your body through mucous membranes, the majority of which happen to be on your face. Before touching ANY part of your face—wash your hands first.
Keep Surfaces Germ-free
Viruses and bacteria can live on surfaces for hours or even days. Just assume every doorknob, pen, chair and keyboard is covered in illness-causing germs. It’s a gong-show of virus and bacteria anywhere a human hand has lingered during the winter season, because you can’t count on everyone to be as diligent as you are at washing. Clean these surfaces often (and encourage others to do the same), or keep hand sanitizers close by and ready to use after you use public places. Antiseptic wipes are also great to keep on hand to wipe those yucky surfaces.
You and your kids should get off the couch and run around for at least 30-60 minutes a day, EVERY DAY! Your heart will become stronger, and your immune system will be better able to fight infection if you are healthy and active.
Get the vaccine
Thankfully, we have an amazing option in Canada; we can choose to vaccinate our children to protect them against the flu virus. In Ontario we even have a nasal spray version so your child can avoid a needle!
Flu Shot FAQ
Who should be vaccinated against the flu?
National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and recommends that everyone 6 months and older get immunized every year against the flu, unless there is a medical reason not to. Why risk getting sick if you don’t have to?
Who should get the flu vaccine?
Who are most encouraged to get the flu vaccine?
- Children under 5 years of age
- Children with neurologic or neurodevelopmental conditions or undergoing treatment with acetylsalicylic acid for long periods
- Kids and adults with weakened immune systems
- Adults 65 years and older
- People with lung, heart, liver and blood diseases, and those with diabetes
- Residents of long-term care home or other chronic care facilities
- Aboriginal Peoples
- People who work with those at risk (health care workers, caretakers of patients with the above conditions, teachers)
- Caregivers to young children
Does your child hate needles? Who doesn’t? Now you can provide them excellent flu protection without the needle!
This vaccine is sprayed into the nose. The vaccine is ‘live’ though weakened and cannot cause the flu. Flu like symptoms may occur however.
- Runny nose, wheezing, fever, vomiting, headache, sore throat and cough are common side effects.
Who can get the nasal spray flu vaccine?
Children and youth between ages two-17 who are healthy and have no contraindications to this vaccine.
About the flu shot
This flu shot is given by injection into the upper arm. It is made from dead influenza virus and cannot infect you with the flu.
Most side effects are mild and don’t last long. Soreness of the arm is most typical. Mild fever and achiness is also possible.
Who can get the flu shot?
- Everyone 6 months and older who lives, works or studies in Ontario
As you can see, almost everyone can benefit from a flu shot, and I highly encourage it! Let’s keep ourselves and our families safe, healthy and happy this Fall and Winter!
This post was developed in association with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The opinions of the author are her own. For additional information on the flu or to find out where to get a flu shot, click here.
If you’re still on the fence about getting the flu shot for your kids, there’s a great new alternative you’re going to want to know about. Want to learn more?
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