YAVAPAI COUNTY, Arizona (January 24, 2013) Most everyone knows that the flu is widespread across the country. Although no one wants to get the flu, parents of very young children may be especially concerned about protecting their kids.
On Saturday, January 19, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Amy E. Heinrich of Red Rock Pediatrics in Cottonwood gave a talk entitled “Managing Common Pediatric Winter Illnesses” as part of a free parenting class series funded by First Things First.
“Children younger than five are especially at risk for complications from the flu,” said Heinrich. She said that flu is characterized by fever, cough, headache and muscle aches. “Some cases also have nausea and vomiting, which is more common among young children,” said Heinrich.
Heinrich advised parents to remember that the flu is contagious from the day before symptoms occur until 5-7 days after becoming sick. Therefore, children should be kept home resting for as long as possible so that they do not spread the flu to others. “Even if a child no longer has a fever, they may still be contagious,” Heinrich said.
She also emphasized that parents should use their good judgment. “You know your child better than anybody, and you know when they’re not acting like themselves,” Heinrich said.
Heinrich talked about measures that can be taken to prevent the flu in young children. These include:
- Constant hand-washing.
- Eating immune-system boosting foods rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Zinc.
- Keeping countertops, doorknobs, and other frequently touched surfaces clean. The flu virus can survive for up to 24 hours on surfaces.
- Getting everyone in a young child’s household the flu shot.
What if a young child does start showing flu symptoms? “Many over the counter medications are not safe for young children ages birth to five years,” said Heinrich. To treat the flu in young children, Heinrich recommended:
- Parents call their health care provider within 48 hours.
- As for all flu cases, the child should get plenty of rest and be given plenty of fluids.
- Steam and humidity (such as from baths) can be helpful to clear up congestion.
- Nasal saline can also be useful for congestion.
- Honey: for children older than 12 months, a teaspoon every hour. “It’s one of the best things you can give a child older than 1,” said Heinrich.
Heinrich emphasized that these are helpful tips, but should not replace a doctor’s visit. More information about preventing and treating the flu can be found by calling your pediatric health care provider and by visiting cdc.gov/flu. For more information about free parenting classes like this one, please visit parentsAZ.org.