Infants and young children under 5 years of age are among the most vulnerable groups of the population to the flu.
Every child may experience symptoms differently, but the usual symptoms are: fever that may be accompanied by chills, muscle aches, arthralgias, headache, sore throat, nausea, runny nose, non-productive cough, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Some children with the flu may develop acute otitis media. A smaller percentage will develop pneumonia either from the flu virus or from infection with a bacterium such as pneumococcus. Other complications are less common.
How can you protect a small child from the flu?
1. Prevention by hand washing
The flu is transmitted by droplets infected with the virus. When someone coughs or sneezes, the contaminated droplets are transmitted through the air to other people who breathe them. Another mode of transmission is through handshake or when objects in which the virus-infected droplets have landed come into contact with the mouth, nose or eyes.
The main prevention of the flu is done by frequent washing of the hands, definitely after coughing, sneezing or wiping the nose. Wash your hands regularly and teach your child to get used to doing the same.
2. Disinfect the house as much as you can.
Wipe or spray surfaces your child touches at home, such as door knobs, toilet washers, faucets, telephones and remote controls, with a disinfectant or cleaning solution designed to kill germs and viruses.
Try to keep your little one away from everyone else as much as possible – in his room. Make sure your child does not share towels, toys, blankets, pillows, glasses, dishes, utensils, etc. and also that all of them are well washed. It is not necessary to separate your sick child’s dishes and glasses from your own.
3. Healthy eating
Proper nutrition, rich in fruits and vegetables but also in antioxidants (vitamin C, vitamin E, β-carotene, lycopene and selenium) can strengthen the child’s body. There is evidence that vitamin D and vitamin A can help the immune system fight infections. Also, the probiotics, ie the beneficial bacteria present in yogurt, sour milk and other enriched products, contribute to the balance of intestinal flora and, in combination with vitamins and minerals, mobilize the immune system.
4. Antipyretics and antiviral drugs
Most of the time, recovery from the flu takes a week. Rest, plenty of fluids and, if necessary, antipyretics are recommended. Children should drink plenty of fluids and stay home to recover at least until the fever subsides. Antipyretics such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can also help as painkillers.
Antiviral drugs can also be given to children with the flu who are at increased risk for serious illness. The use of antibiotics is indicated only in cases where it occurs secondarily, as a complication of a microbial infection.
5. The flu vaccine
Every year, before the start of the winter season, vaccines are made that contain the types of flu virus that are circulating. The flu vaccine protects children to a large extent, but not completely (the chance of protection is 50-70%) and it takes about two weeks after receiving it for complete immunity. In many countries, such as the United States, it is recommended that all young children over 6 months of age be vaccinated before the start of the flu season.
Infants younger than 6 months have a higher risk of serious complications from the flu but are too young to get the flu shot. Thus, it is important that those who live with or care for them do not become ill in order to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. If you have in the family or care for babies under 6 months it is good to be vaccinated.
6. Continue breastfeeding if you have the flu
You may be wondering if it is safe to continue breastfeeding your toddler if you have the flu. The good news is that breastfeeding is safe and recommended, as breast milk contains antibodies and other immune factors that can protect your baby from the flu. The flu is not transmitted to infants through breast milk.
Before breastfeeding, mothers should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water and follow the recommendations for proper cleansing. Because breast milk supply may be reduced for some mothers when they are sick, you may need additional breastfeeding support. The flu vaccine is safe for breastfeeding women.
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