Stomach Flu in Children – What You Need To Know

The much-dreaded flu has wreaked havoc on people for generations, spawning an endless row of over-the-counter medications and an annual flu shot designed to keep it at bay. Unfortunately, if you ever want to know when flu season has officially begun, you need to look no further than the youngest members of your community. When the stomach flu sweeps into an area, children are typically the first to get hit, which is why the annual vaccination is strongly recommended for youth of all ages. Evidence indicates that children are key spreaders of the flu for the same reason that they are susceptible to many other undesirable health conditions, from pink eye to strep throat. Children are less likely to cover their coughs and sneezes, wash their hands faithfully, or use caution before sharing food, soda, or belongings.

When the first wave of the flu comes into a community, preschoolers are usually the first to fall victim. Researchers have found that about 30 days after sick three and four-year-olds started showing up in doctor’s offices, flu-stricken adults followed. Harvard researchers further found that areas with large concentrations of children had higher instances of the flu and every one percent increase in the child population brought a four percent increase in adult ER visits. Although areas with lower groups of children certainly aren’t immune to the illness, they do experience far fewer cases. Because of this, the government now recommends that children from ages six months to 18 years be vaccinated, rather than just those ages five and under.

The flu vaccine or flu shot takes up to eight weeks to provide full protection. The flu season usually peaks between January and March, so it’s recommended that children get the flu shot before the end of November. Being immunized should not be considered the end-all, be-all to flu prevention, however. Good hygiene is still the best preventative measure. Teaching your children to cover their mouths and noses, washing hands regularly, not sharing utensils, dispensing properly of used tissues, the avoidance of second-hand smoke and keeping distance from flu-stricken friends and family members is also highly recommended, especially as the common cold and flu start to rear their heads in other parts of the neighborhood.

How can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu? For some parents, it can be tricky to determine whether their child has a cold or something a bit more serious. The key is to look at the symptoms. The common cold is hallmarked by conditions such as sore throat, fever, cough and runny nose. Flu symptoms are very much like colds but also tend to include severe headache, body aches and pains. Should your child suffer from any of the above, it might be wise to make a trip to the doctor to determine what type of treatment is needed.

Although children are the most vulnerable initial population to the flu, parents can still play a vital role in preventing its spread. Teaching good hygiene, keeping an eye on their health and wellness, and providing adequate medicinal and home health care can benefit not just your child and family, but the overall community.

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