Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that primarily affects children. Influenza can cause mild to severe symptoms and can even lead to hospitalisation or death. Symptoms of influenza in children may include fever, chills, cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, body aches, headache, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea. It is important for parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of influenza in their children so they can seek medical attention if necessary. Vaccines are available to help protect children from becoming infected with the flu virus. It is also important to practice good hygiene such as frequent handwashing to reduce the spread of the virus.
However, we often blame it on the dip in temperature or fluctuations in humidity and don’t take them seriously. But, in children, these symptoms even if brought on by weather change should not be ignored because they could be a sign of flu. The flu virus spreads faster as the temperature fluctuates during monsoons and winter. So, the months between September and November are called the ‘flu season’ in India. Children need all the protection possible during this season to prevent the complications of the flu. Studies have shown that children under 5 years of age are 7 times more likely to be hospitalised because of flu. Even in uncomplicated cases, children may take 8-10 days to recover. No parent wants this kind of suffering for their children.
A UNICEF report titled The State of the World’s Children 2023: For Every Child, Vaccinationshowsthat 67 million children missed out on one or more vaccinations over three years (2019-2021) due to service disruption caused by strained health systems and diversion of scarce resources, conflict and fragility, and decreased confidence. However, according to new statistics released by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, fewer children around the world missed receiving routine vaccinations in 2022 compared to the year before, indicating a rebound in childhood immunizations following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are three ways Dr. Abhishek Chatterjee from Anav Child Care, New Delhi suggests to contain the spread of flu and protect children against its complications.
Get your children vaccinated against the flu
As the adage goes, ‘better safe than sorry,’ vaccination may ensure the safety of children against severe flu complications and is recommended in the guidelines on childhood immunisation issued by the Indian Academy of Paediatrics. One vaccination shot is needed every year for children between 6 months and 5 years of age. This is because there are four types of flu viruses and they are ‘shapeshifters. They change form each year and the annual flu vaccination is developed to counter these.
Ensure that you and your children follow basic hygiene measures
Basic hygiene gives an extra layer of protection against flu and helps to halt or prevent its spread. Flu viruses may spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks in places where others are present. Children may catch the flu if they come in close contact with other infected children or adults. Since the flu virus can live on solid surfaces, they can catch it if they even touch a contaminated surface. This is why children must be taught to wash their hands frequently with soap and water. It is also necessary to sanitize the toys and other articles that they use often.
Don’t send children to school or outdoors if they show any symptoms of flu
Symptoms may appear even before the child is diagnosed with flu. This means they may transmit the infection to others. Keep them at home for a few days or till your paediatrician clears them to go to school. This helps to prevent the spread of the flu. Parents must be vigilant and break this chain of transmission by taking the necessary safety precautions.
(With IANS Inputs)