Save Money in this Sunday's paper

Parent to Parent


Fight flu with vaccine, frequent hand-washing

By Betsy Flagler
John Rosemond
Betsy Flagler, who lives in Davidson, writes the nationally syndicated Parent to Parent column.

The flu virus is always changing. Is your family ready to battle this season’s flu bug arsenal?

Now’s the time to get a vaccine, before the highly contagious bug starts to spread later this year.

“Don’t hesitate, vaccinate,” is the battle cry from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Another key precaution: Frequent hand-washing – not just after potty breaks. If your child tends to touch his mouth, nose and eyes and doesn’t wash his hands properly, he’s inviting a flu virus invasion. Close quarters in schools also increase your child’s risk.

“Flu is predictably unpredictable,” said Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the HHS, during a recent news conference. “Our message today is simple. Everyone 6 months of age and older should receive a flu vaccination.”

Flu viruses cause a respiratory illness that can last a week or more and race through a family. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, flu symptoms include a sudden fever, usually above 101 degrees; chills and body shakes; headache; body aches; unusual fatigue; sore throat; dry, hacking cough; and stuffy, runny nose.

To avoid spreading the disease, a child with the flu needs to stay home, except to seek medical care, at least 24 hours after a fever is gone without the use of medication. Start planning now – not in the heat of the moment – about how you will handle child care if your kids get sick and have to stay home from school.

Despite what older folks may say about bundling up, cold temperatures don’t cause flu or colds. The culprits are the cold and flu viruses, which tend to be more common during the winter, when kids are in close contact with each other at school, the pediatrics academy says.

Flu cases in the United States are typically highest in January and February. A sneeze or cough can transfer a virus. Frequent hand-washing and teaching your child to sneeze or cough into the bend of her elbow – not into her hands – helps reduce the spread of the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t support the use of over-the-counter oral cough and cold medications for young children. Studies have shown that cold medications don’t work and may have side effects in children younger than 6.

Antibiotics do no good in fighting colds or the flu. But if your child has a fever and is uncomfortable, try single-ingredient acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Watch the dosage and time interval. The FDA has found that part of the problem with cold medications has been that parents give the wrong dosage, or use more than one medicine with overlapping ingredients.

Email Betsy Flagler at

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more

Quick Job Search
Salary Databases