With Coronavirus turning life upside down, the need to know about common illnesses like flu arises. Being a mother of two, my concerns are relevant. Many symptoms of influenza (Flu) are similar to those of common cold. Both flu and cold are contagious and infect the nose, throat and sometimes lungs. Flu is a very common illness that usually causes mild to moderate symptoms. What most of us do not know is that flu can sometimes be severe and even lead to death. Since, children are at risk, I feel that parents of young children should be aware of the causes, symptoms and prevention of influenza. Most Indians are certainly not familiar with the steps for the prevention of flu and the process of vaccination involved in doing so. In this article, I’m sharing everything that parents should know about flu, particularly in India.
How to find that your child is infected by virus
I know that it’s crucial to determine whether the sneezing child is inflected by flu or not because flu is one of the most contagious viral infections. If the child is coughing, sneezing or complaining of body ache, fever, your alarm bells should ring. The viral infection spreads easily by touching toys, doorknobs, books and other things that might have come in contact with infected people.
The children who are at a higher risk of catching the flu are those:
1) Who have come in contact with an infected person
2) Who have not had the flu vaccine. This is one of the most important things I feel parents should know about flu in India.
3) Who do not take precautions like washing hands and wearing masks to save themselves from the infections.
It is recommended that every child in the age group of 6 months to 8 years should get the flu shot.
Difference between Flu and Common Cold
When the child starts showing symptoms like sneezing or coughing, we are confused about the kind of infection- whether it is flu or the common cold. Both have similar symptoms, but flu is more severe than cold. The major difference between the two is that in common cold, one rarely experiences fever while severe flu may land you in a hospital for pneumonia or other respiratory problems. Common cold makes you feel really bad but with flu, you need complete rest along with proper medication.
It’s better to consult a doctor if you are not sure about the illness.
Symptoms of Flu
As stated earlier, some of the most common symptoms of flu (Influenza) are:
1. Runny nose (sometimes stuffy too)
2. Sore throat.
3. Dry, uncomfortable cough.
4. In many cases, the patient has moderate to high fever.
5. Body pains and fatigue that may stay for up to two weeks.
6. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea along with the above signs can worsen the flu impact.
Healthy Habits to Prevent Flu
Covid spread has taught us an important lesson – Healthy habits can prevent the catching of infectious diseases. Viral infections are highly contagious and hence be controlled only by following simple healthy habits. This is another recommendation I have for parents:
1. Wash hands frequently. Educate your children about the importance of keeping hands clean.
2. Stay away from others when you’re sneezing or coughing. Similarly, avoid contact with people who are not well.
3. While coughing or squeezing, cover your mouth and nose so that people around you may not get infected.
4. Avoid touching the eyes, mouth and nose to keep safe from germs. A lesson that should be taught from childhood so that it becomes a healthy habit.
5. Flu vaccination is the most effective way to protect yourself from the illness. Ironically, seasonal flu is more common than Coronavirus but its vaccine is not popular in India.
Get the right flu vaccine, at the right time
The WHO has recommended that the Southern Hemisphere (SH) vaccine is the ideal vaccine for India. Influenza vaccination is most effective when local circulating viruses are well-matched with vaccine antigens for SH. Since the peak season of flu in the larger part of the country starts between mid-summer to monsoons, now is the right time to vaccinate against flu for effective protection.
Flu vaccine should be taken annually. However, getting vaccinated early for subsequent seasons is likely to be associated with reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season, particularly among older adults says CDC. Protection fades over time, so not getting vaccinated with the vaccine containing the right seasonal strains may leave one more vulnerable. Vaccination can be done throughout the SH flu season, into September or later.
On a concluding note, a sick child is a concern for the whole family. Hence, we all want our kids to be happy and healthy. A few hygienic practices and vaccination doses can ensure the same by protecting our children from flu and other diseases.
So talk to your doctor, get the flu shot and stay healthy!
We must #PreventWhatCanBePrevented because flu is preventable with vaccination.