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Staying Healthy During 2012-13 Flu Season

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Influenza season is unpredictable and varies year to year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can begin as early as October, peak in January or February and continue to occur as late as May.

What is the flu?

The CDC's "Flu Guide for Parents" says influenza (the flu) is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by influenza viruses. Each year, about 20,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized from flu complications, like pneumonia.

Symptoms of the flu can include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Some people with the flu will not have a fever.

The flu is highly contagious. Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. Less often, the flu can be transferred by touching something that has flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.

People with the flu may be able to infect others from one day before getting sick to five to seven days after. However, children and people with weakened immune systems might be still contagious past five to seven days of being sick, especially if they still have symptoms.

How can you and your family stay healthy?

To help protect your family and yourself, the CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. It's especially important for children younger than 5 years and children of any age with a long-term health condition like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. They are at higher risk of serious flu complications if they get the flu.

In addition to getting vaccinated, the CDC says parents should take and encourage their children to take everyday steps that can help prevent the spread of germs:

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • If someone in the household is sick, try to keep the sick person in a separate room from others in the household, if possible.
  • Keep bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys for children clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.
  • Throw tissues and other disposable items used by sick persons in your household in the trash.

Where can you learn more about influenza?

Additional information about the flu is available on the CDC website (Seasonal Influenza and Flu Information for Parents with Young Children) as well as Flu.gov.

For immunization information, contact your family doctor or pediatrician, or dial 2-1-1 for current information on where you may obtain a flu immunization for your child.

Staying Healthy During 2012-13 Flu Season
goodhealth.com


Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.