With school back in session after the holidays and the flu spreading rapidly, it's not surprising when children come home with more than homework. Here are some handy tips on avoiding spreading the germs, knowing how to tell a cold and the flu apart, and when it's time to get emergency help.
How to Avoid Spreading Germs
Whether you’re trying to avoid getting or giving someone the flu, the steps are the same. Make sure to wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based gel to keep your hands clean. Avoid close contact with people who already have the flu or flu-like symptoms, and avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth where the mucus membranes are. If you sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue and immediately throw the tissue away. Finally, stay healthy: get eight hours of sleep per night, exercise several times a week, drink enough water, and avoid unhealthy food. If you do have any flu or flu-like symptoms, or if you have a fever, stay home and remain home for at least 24 hours after the symptoms or fever have gone.
How to Know It’s the Flu
In general, the flu will be “worse” than a cold. A cold tends to have symptoms that are similar, such as body aches, tiredness, and a cough, but those symptoms will be more severe with the flu. In addition, the flu will sometimes include a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, chills, and a fever over 100 (although a fever is not necessary for it to be classified as the flu). Children often also have nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as part of the flu.
How to Know It’s Time for Emergency Medical Assistance
If your child has any of the following symptoms, seek immediate emergency assistance: his or her skin turns blue, he or she is either breathing quickly or having difficulty breathing, he or she is not able to keep enough fluids down, he or she is vomiting severely or persistently, he or she is unable to fully wake up and interact, he or she has symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and cough. In the case of infants, other issues that are warning signs include less wet diapers, an inability to cry tears, and an inability to eat.
If you as a caregiver for a child becomes sick, if you are pregnant, if you are elderly, or if you have another medical condition that puts you at high risk (such as asthma), then you should go the doctor immediately to make sure that you are treating the flu properly.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone above the age of six months.