How to Avoid Colds and Flu
- Take your child to the doctor for a flu shot. Although you can't always prevent your baby from getting a cold, you can help prevent the flu by having your baby vaccinated. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend that all infants 6 months of age to 5 years be vaccinated against the flu during the fall months. Every year the CDC creates a vaccine with the "best guess" of which strains of influenza will be present during the next flu season. Although not 100 percent protective, having your baby vaccinated will greatly reduce his or her chances of contracting the flu. Older children with chronic medical conditions and their siblings should also receive the influenza vaccine.
- Keep sick friends and relatives away. This will not always be possible, but keeping your children away from other children or adults who are obviously sick will cut down on the number of infections. This is especially important during influenza outbreaks.
- Teach children to wash hands. Washing hands is probably the best way to keep germs from spreading. Teach your child to wash both hands with soap and water for as long as the tune of "Happy Birthday." Many experts suggest this as long enough to kill most germs. Make sure all the adults in the house do the same.
- Keep kids at arm's length when you're sick. Let another adult in the household who isn't ill care for the children in the first few days of the cold or flu. If you are breastfeeding, try not to breathe, cough, or sneeze directly onto your baby's face. Wash your hands frequently.
Telling the Difference Between Cold and Flu
Here are some clues:
- Season: Although colds occur all year round, the influenza virus usually affects a community during the winter months between November and March, and usually for only a few weeks. Knowing if the flu has hit your neighborhood can be helpful.
- Speed: The main difference between a cold and the flu is speed of onset. A cold comes on slowly over a few days, the flu comes on very rapidly, sometimes over a few hours. In small infants and toddlers, you will see a rapid and dramatic decrease in your baby's activity level and appetite. Your infant will "just not look right" or will appear very sick.
- Symptoms: Both colds and flu cause high fevers in babies and toddlers, but with the flu, the fever will last more than one or two days, and your baby might not look much better after you treat the fever. Although both affect the upper respiratory system, the cough will be worse in flu, and there will be less of a congested nose. The flu can also cause diarrhea and vomiting in infants and toddlers.