The flu season has arrived again..do read this article. It talks about things I bet you didn’t know about flu and its impact on kids!!
A few days ago, my sister called me up. She stays in Canada and being a working mother, we usually catch up once a week. So, when she called me in the middle of the week and that too early morning, I was surprised. As soon as I picked up her call, the first thing she shot at me was, “How do I increase my child’s immunity?” As this was coming from nowhere, I was lost for a moment.
“Hey calm down! What’s happened?” I asked.
“He is down with a serious bout of cold and cough. And his day care centre has advised us not to bring him for the entire week.”
This was serious. This was the third or fourth time in two months that he had got a terrible cold. It’s widespread in North America and the government is advising everyone to take flu shots.
Talking to her, I wondered how come we don’t see any flu shot recommendation in India. Agreed, India falling under the tropical climate region, doesn’t experience heavy winters like the Europe and the North America. However, we still have our fair share of influenza virus and its complications. Remember Swine flu or H1N1 that first hit India in 2009 and continues to create a havoc every monsoon. Or the seasonal virus that makes almost every school student miss his school at the onset of the winter season.
As I was mulling over this, I got an opportunity to attend the Influenza awareness bloggers meet that was joined by not only many mommy bloggers like me (who probably had the same concern as me), but two eminent doctors of Mumbai, Dr.Mukesh Gupta (Gynaecologist/ Obstetrician) and Dr. Uday Ananth Pai (Paediatrician – MD, DCH Distinction – with 29 years of work experience) and Genelia Deshmukh, actress and now a mother of two sons.
It was an extremely useful meet as it helped bust many myths and created awareness around Influenza.
For example, all this while I thought common cold was similar to flu.
What? Did you think like me too? Time to get your facts right.
Dr. Gupta cleared my long-held belief – “Common cold is not same as flu. Influenza is very different and we should not mistake them for each other.”
Influenza or flu is a contagious respiratory illness. Influenza is caused by influenza virus. It infects the nose, throat and lungs.It spreads through tiny droplets that are thrown in the air when someone with flu coughs, sneezes, etc. and can affect people within 6 feet radius of him. It can also spread through infected surfaces. For example, if someone touches a table or a door handle that has flu virus on it, and then they touch their nose, mouth or eyes with the same hand.
There are two kinds of people who are the most susceptible to flu.
Children – Children under the age of 5 years are the most vulnerable to seasonal influenza. Click To TweetSevere influenza complications are mostly seen in children less than 2 years and they need to be hospitalised. Every year an average of 20000 children upto 5 years old are hospitalised due to complications arising out of influenza. Click To TweetThat’s a pretty hefty number.
Pregnant women – It’s true that pregnancy is a state and not an illness, but still, this state makes you susceptible to influenza and its complications. Remember, changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make them more prone to severe illness from flu, and might lead to hospitalisation. Flu can cause severe illness in pregnant women which in turn can pose serious problems for their unborn baby, even leading to growth restricted babies, birth defects, premature labour and delivery. Click To Tweet
Things I bet you didn’t know about flu and its impact on kidsWhat are the general symptoms of flu?
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
What you should do if you think you or your child have flu like symptoms?
- Flu being a virus spreads with contact. So, limit your or your child’s contact with others to prevent spreading infection.
- Wash hands regularly with soap and water.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze. Ask your child to do the same.
- Take paracetamol if you have high fever.
- Consume homemade food.
- It is extremely important that you keep hydrating yourself. If the child is not eating, increase his fluid intake.
- Start with saline water gargle and steam inhalation.
These are regular recommendations. However, if you notice any of these red flags, seek immediate medical opinion.
- Fall in blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Blood tinged sputum while coughing
And for kids, if you notice any of these symptoms –
- Body temperature of 100 or more is a sign of concern
- Spikes in body temperature
- Not eating, or even taking liquids
- Feeling drowsy
- Difficulty in breathing
Viruses can be treated, including the notorious H1N1 virus that causes swine flu. However, haven’t we been taught that prevention is better than cure or treatment. So why wait for the flu virus to touch us or our kid and then rush to the doctor for the cure.The best way to avoid a flu attack is to get your child a flu vaccination or flu shot. It protects against infection by influenza viruses. Click To Tweet
However, don’t think that getting your child vaccinated is enough. You know that as healthy as you think you might be, you are equally susceptible to catching influenza. And if you get it, what are the odds that your child won’t get it?
Genelia said an interesting thing. If your child hasn’t got a flu attack, it may not be because he is immune, but because people around him were vaccinated for the flu.
Your older child might carry a flu virus and your younger child may get affected due to it.
Got it!! So, basically to have complete immunity against any virus, the entire family or community needs to take the flu jabs. We could eradicate polio virus only because of mass vaccination or immunisation program. The same way, we can avoid flu only if all the family members are adequately protected by the influenza vaccine.
What is the best time to take the flu shot?
The best time to take a flu vaccine is at the time of pre-conception. Yes, even before you are pregnant or at the planning stage. It protects you and your would-be-baby against it. Because infants under 6 months can’t be given flu vaccines. Thus, the antibodies from the mother’s body protects the baby against the flu attack.
If you have missed the pre-conception stage, you may still take it during pregnancy. Do consult with your doctor for the right time for vaccination.
A breastfeeding mommy can also take the shot; the shot doesn’t affect lactation. You may consult a Doctor for further information through here.
However, remember that along with the mother, the entire family needs to take the flu vaccine so that the mother and the baby are fully protected.
If you could not get the flu shot during pregnancy, according to Dr. Uday Pai, “April, May, June is the best period to take influenza vaccination for children and whole family for complete prevention against flu.” It is the start of the new school term and it is an ideal time to protect your child against an onslaught of this virus.
However, remember that the influenza virus undergoes rapid mutation, hence a new version of the vaccine is developed twice a year. It is advisable to take a flu shot once a year.
So, if you have not taken a flu shot for yourself or got it for your child, please take it up with your paediatrician. Don’t forget to take the entire family for the flu jab.
For more information about Influenza and its possible complications, go to this link. Things I bet you didn’t know about flu and its impact on kids – do you know now? Do take appropriate measures, parents!!
Disclaimer: I attended a discussion on influenza awareness facilitated by Abbott India Limited. Any opinion expressed in this blog is my personal opinion and not the opinion of Abbott India Limited. Abbott India Limited does not assume any liability for the content of the blog.
The blog post is not meant to be a replacement for a doctor consultation, nor is it a medical recommendation or prescription of treatment for babies having Influenza. Any reader of this blog or their family members suffering from Influenza should specifically consult his/her doctor for the same and follow the suggested course of treatment.