Flu season is here; important tips to prevent influenza in kids | Health - Hindustan Times
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Flu season is here; important tips to prevent influenza in kids

By, New Delhi
Dec 19, 2023 02:16 PM IST

Influenza can pose risk of complications in kids and must not be taken lightly. From getting a flu shot to eating healthy, know preventive measures.

As the mercury drops, the threat of winter illnesses go up. Influenza, a common winter illness, poses a significant risk to people. Kids, with their underdeveloped immune systems, not only face an elevated risk of contracting the flu but also grapple with severe complications. It is important to pay attention to symptoms such fever, body ache, runny nose, sore throat, tiredness, headache among others. Parents can play a major role in preventing their little ones from flu. From getting them vaccinated to instilling habits like washing hands frequently, not touching elevator doors, furniture and objects can help prevent the spread. Children should also avoid sharing their personal things with others. Eating a nutritious diet and avoiding junk food can also help boost their immunity. (See pics | Influenza to pneumonia: 5 common winter illnesses; how to prevent)

Kids, with their underdeveloped immune systems, not only face an elevated risk of contracting the flu but also grapple with severe complications. (Freepik)
Kids, with their underdeveloped immune systems, not only face an elevated risk of contracting the flu but also grapple with severe complications. (Freepik)

"Influenza, commonly known as the flu, can be particularly challenging for children during winter and is highly contagious. Unlike adults, children have less developed immune systems, making them more susceptible to severe complications from the flu virus. In addition, young kids often lack built-up immunity from previous exposure. One of the unique challenges of influenza in children is that it can easily spread in daycare centres and schools due to proximity and shared spaces," says Dr Manjusha Agarwal, Senior Consultant Internal Medicine Global Hospitals Parel Mumbai.

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Influenza is very much preventable and must not be taken lightly as its symptoms be it fever, coughing or fatigue can disrupt their routine and affect their studies. Getting a flu shot can help prevent the infection.

"Remember, that one can have mild to major symptoms and may also require hospital admission. This makes prevention and containment efforts more complex. Moreover, symptoms such as high fever, coughing, and fatigue can disrupt a child's daily routine and lead to missed school days or activities. Parents should ensure their kids receive updated vaccinations each year to protect against new strains. Do not miss or skip the vaccination and try to speak to the doctor if you have any doubts. Parents should not worry as flu vaccines are completely safe for children," says Dr Agarwal.

Preventive measures for kids

"Encouraging regular hand washing and proper respiratory hygiene can also make a difference, as these simple practices help limit the spread of germs and viruses among children. Another handy tip is to maintain a healthy lifestyle for kids with balanced nutrition, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. Parents should ensure that their children eat a well-balanced diet consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and pulses," says Dr Vrushali Bichkar, Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatologist, Motherhood Hospital, Lullanagar, Pune.

Dr Bichkar further elaborates on measures to ward off flu risk.

Avoid junk food: It is best to avoid junk, oily canned, and processed foods. Parents can take the help of an expert when it comes to diet for their children.

Proper hydration: Also, proper hydration is key to staying healthy. Drink plenty of water during the day and add hydrating fruits and vegetables to the diet

Do not touch surfaces: A strong immune system serves as a first line of defense against influenza. Avoiding close contact with sick individuals and teaching kids about the importance of not sharing personal items like utensils or water bottles can further reduce their risk of catching the flu during colder months.

"By prioritizing prevention strategies, parents and caregivers can help keep influenza at bay for their children as winter approaches. Parents should consult the doctor in case their children have symptoms such as high fever, cough, cold, chills, body pain, and weakness. Do not ignore these symptoms at all. Timely treatment can help children to deal with influenza. Children should stop touching their faces after touching any object," says Dr Bichkar.

"Apart from vaccination, children should wash their hands often with soap and water, especially before eating and after coughing, sneezing, wiping noses, and touching infected surfaces such as elevator doors, furniture, faucets, or objects. Avoid crowded places and being around sick people. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces from time to time, wear masks, and maintain a safe distance from others. Children should avoid sharing any personal items with others. Also, children should eat nutritious diets and exercise to boost immunity and prevent influenza," adds Dr Agarwal.

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