5 Simple Tips for the Cold and Flu Season—Even When It's 70 Degrees in LA
A pediatrician gives advice for keeping little ones well this time of year
While the rest of the nation has been dealing with the Polar Vortex, we over here in sunny LA have been enjoying temperatures of 70 degrees and above. It’s the middle of the winter here, but other than an increase of UGGs being worn (with cut offs and skirts, mind you), you won’t even realize it. Birds are chirping, we’re spending time at the beach, we’re lunching al fresco… and we’ve been rubbing it in to our friends in other parts of the country (who are wearing four layers as they scrape the ice off their car windshields) by posting Facebook photos of us barbecuing in shorts and a tank top with the hashtag #polarvortex. Yeah, we’re jerks. But even though we have some undeniably beautiful weather, we are still prone to getting sick. In fact, uncannily enough, I am writing this article as I sit in my bed with the flu. And it’s awful. I can tell you, even sunny blue skies and the sight of people rollerblading make no difference when you feel like crap. How can I make sure that my family, especially my 14-month-old doesn’t get sick, too? Well, Pediatrician and dad, Dr. Jack Maypole, has some sound advice for keeping Baby and the rest of the family clear of those dreaded winter viruses.
1. Be Vigilant and Communicate
Dr. Maypole recommends that parents and teachers or day care providers “keep the channels open around their child’s health, including times of illness in the classroom or in the household.” When your baby or toddler is sick, let her daycare, play gym, pre-school, people with whom you and junior regularly come in contact, know as soon as possible. Encourage those same people to put you on notice when illness has infiltrated the group. Maypole states that some viruses spread like wildfire, and vigilance with honest communication can halt their spread.
2. Know When to Keep Your Little One Home From Play Dates, Pre-School, Day Care, Etc.
Dr. Maypole says while it may be reasonable to take an otherwise healthy baby with a cough and runny nose to music class or pre-school, a baby with more severe symptoms such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea should probably stay home until either cleared by their health care provider or the symptoms have been absent for 24 hours. If you’re unsure, call your baby’s pediatrician and have her help you assess the situation.
3. Do Everything Possible to Keep Baby Away From a Sick Family Member
This is where I messed up. Though I’ve been letting my husband take over with my 14-month-old while I’ve been sick, I allowed the little monkey to climb onto me one time as I lay in bed. And, Boom! She’s sick now, too. Up all last night with a fever, chills and cough. It’s terrible to see her like that, and even worse to know that my one, dumb move was probably the cause. Dr. Maypole advises parents: “The best one can. If there is a household member laid low by illness, try to give them the benefit of quarantine, isolating them (but still attending to them!), keeping their toys or items separate from where others may roam.”
4. Wash Your Hands!
Research supports that this may be the best way to limit the spread of infectious illnesses between family members. Maypole suggests that kids learn to wash their hands for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.”
5. Consider a Flu Shot.
Dr. Maypole advises that all parents should consider getting a flu shot for all eligible members of their families.
“Since 2010, the U.S. has moved to recommending universal vaccinations for nearly everyone over 6 months of age, ideally as early as October (but the season lasts well into the spring). The vaccine is the best line of defense against the disease. While influenza, or “flu” may occur as a mild illness, it can be particularly nasty–or dangerous–in younger children or anyone with a complex or chronic illness (including diabetes, asthma, neurologic problems or former premature infants). Flu infections cause up to 20,000 hospitalizations in children under 5 each year. For most children, the flu vaccine is safe and offers cross protection against the different varieties that occur each season.”
Maypole suggests that you speak with your child’s primary care provider should you have questions or concerns about the flu shot.
I say, heed this advice. Had I been strict in doing all these things, perhaps I could have avoided this awful flu, but more importantly, I could have avoided giving it to my little one. And know that no matter where you live in the country, from New England to sunny LA, flu and cold season happens. Yep, even outside of the Polar Vortex, we can still get sick… But, I’m not going to lie, it doesn’t suck to know that as soon as we’re all well, we can go enjoy the beach and that 83-degree weather.
Jack Maypole, M.D., is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School®. Dr. Maypole is a primary care pediatrician and the director of the Comprehensive Care Program at Boston Medical Center. He is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.
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