Parents can help prevent and slow the spread of the flu. The flu (influenza) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. Flu infections are highly contagious. They spread easily when children are in a group with other children such as in a child care center or school. Flu is more dangerous than the common cold for children and can lead to serious health conditions like pneumonia or bacterial infections. Each year many children are hospitalized and some die from the flu.
The flu vaccine is the best way to protect against getting the flu. All people 6 months and older need a flu vaccine each year. Babies cannot get vaccinated until they are 6 months old. It is critical that people who live with or care for children, especially infants younger than 6 months, get vaccinated. Vaccinating adults who are around an infant to prevent illnesses is often referred to as “cocooning.”
A few minutes killing germs can go a long way toward keeping you and those around you healthy. As adults, we know to wash our hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing, sneezing, or wiping noses. When you cough or sneeze, cough into your sleeve or arm or into a tissue. Be sure to dispose of the tissue and wash your hands. Parents and child care providers can do their part to kill germs and also teach young children how and when to wash their hands.
Prevent the Spread of Illness in Child Care
Young children who have just entered child care are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. This is because it may be the first time they have been exposed to certain germs. In addition, they may be too young to have received enough doses of recommended vaccines to have developed immunity.
How Sick is Too Sick?
When children are healthy, they can go to child care or school, and parents can go to work. Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to make sure everyone can continue to participate in these important activities. However, when a child feels too sick to participate in activities, or requires care beyond what the caregivers can provide without compromising their ability to care for other children, that child will need to stay home.
If your child is not feeling well, your physician is the best person to consult about whether she can go to school. Common sense, concern for your child’s well-being, and the possibility of infecting classmates should all contribute to the decision about whether your child should stay home.
As general guidelines, keep her home if:
- She has a fever
- She is not well enough to participate in class
- You think she may be contagious to other children
If your child has been ill but is feeling better, yet has still awakened with a minor problem, such as a runny nose or slight headache, you can send her to school if none of the three circumstances listed above is present. Even so, make sure the school and your child have a phone number where you can be reached during the day if more serious symptoms develop and she needs to return home.