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Experts Corner

Children's Health

The Flu Fighters
By Tara Kompare, Pharm.D.

You have seen them before--mothers sporting backbacks equipped with disinfectant sprays, highchair liners, and a gallon of hand sanitizer. To some they may appear silly, paranoid even, but to those of us who have survived a flu infestation during the holidays, they are our role models for the flu season.

The influenza virus spreads like wildfire and knowing how to prevent yourself and others from catching this "Bah-humbug" virus can hopefully help you build happy holiday memories this year. To keep the flu out of your home, follow these tips:

1. Get Vaccinated: It is easy to do, when the supplies are not limited, and can decrease the risk of you and your family members catching the flu. Although there is a chance you or your child could still become infected, the severity and duration of symptoms will be less severe after receiving a vaccine. The best time to get vaccinated is in October or November and the flu season starts from as early as October and ends as late as May. There are two types of vaccines available:

  • The Flu Shot: No one likes a shot. At least, I don't know of anyone and if I did they would probably not give me that warm and fuzzy feeling. Anyway, shots are sometimes a necessary evil and one that parents loathe more than their children. The shot contains a killed virus and most people can receive this form of vaccination with some exceptions:
    1. People with egg allergies
    2. Children under six-months-old
    3. Those who have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks of receiving a flu vaccine
    4. People who have experienced an allergic reaction to the flu shot in the past

  • The Nasal Spray: This is a lot more user friendly but it has more restrictions than the shot since it contains a weakened live virus. The following people should not receive the nasally inhaled vaccine:
    1. People under the age of five-years-old and greater than 49 years old
    2. Anyone with a chronic medical condition
    3. Women who are pregnant

2. Follow Good Health Habits:

  • Wash hands thoroughly and frequently: Scrub hands for fifteen seconds with warm soap and water or apply a rinse-free hand sanitizer.
    * Hand sanitizer caution: Keep instant sanitizers out of children’s reach and only use on the hands. It can burn the skin when applied to sensitive areas such as the face.

  • Cover up: Try to remind your children to cough and sneeze inside a tissue.

  • Stay home: Get some movies, chicken soup, ginger ale, and turn into human couch potatoes together.

  • Avoid infected individuals: No play dates with feverish kids and no kisses from sick grandmothers please!

  • Remember to avoid touching the mouth, nose, and eyes: I know this is next to impossible for kids to do that is why it is so important to make sure their tiny hands stay clean.

3. Ask About Drug Treatments: There is no magic pill to get rid of the flu but if someone in your home becomes infected, there are some drug regimens that, when started early enough, can lessen the duration and severity of flu symptoms. Consult your child's doctor about possible options.

The winter season is often accompanied by guests--some welcomed and some not. Hopefully, with the proper precautions, you will be able to keep the flu out of your home and welcome your beloved guests with arms wide open and mouths germ free.

*P.S.S. (Parent Sanity Saver): Always keep some hand sanitizer on hand, especially when venturing to children's play areas in fast food restaurants. These fun zones often harbor tons of hidden germs just waiting to pop into the mouths of babes.

About the Author:
Tara Kompare, Pharm.D. is a doctor of pharmacy and mother of two amazing little girls. You can contact her directly at drk @ themedicinemom.com or visit her website at www.themedicinemom.com. She encourages reader feedback and questions.

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