by Dr. Jane Wilkov
Fall means more than football season
An ounce of prevention for flu season
FOR MANY, THINKING ABOUT fall conjures up images of beautiful cool days, play- ing in the leaves, watching football, school activities and holiday preparations. For pediatricians and other health care providers, thoughts of kids in close quarters, runny noses, coughs and the start of “flu” season clouds those images.
What can you do to stay as healthy as possible this fall?
Get a flu shot
It’s always hard to predict exactly when the number of flu cases will rise in a commu- nity, and even which strains will circulate. The best defense remains getting a flu shot early in the season. The four strains in the vaccine are changed yearly to match what is thought will circulate. Benefits include reduced flu illnesses, school and work absences, flu-related hospitalizations and even death. Children, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions are even more at risk for complications from the flu.
It takes about two weeks after vaccina- tion for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of Octo- ber. If that’s not possible, getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial, and flu vaccine can be given well into the winter months.
Vaccination is recommended for all children over six months of age. Caretak- ers of younger infants should be vaccinated not only to protect themselves, but to protect the infant. There are very few con- traindications to getting the vaccine. Talk to your healthcare provider with any ques- tions and don’t put off something that can make a big difference in your and your child’s health.
Good handwashing can’t be overrated
Clean often with soap and water or an alco- hol-based hand rub.
The “elbow cough” can be effective
Covering your mouth and nose when cough- ing and sneezing helps prevent the spread of germs like flu and many other viruses. Teach your children the “elbow cough.”
Avoid close contact with people who are sick
Stay home when you can if you are sick and keep your distance from others who are sick.
Take care of yourself
Make healthy choices, get enough rest, drink plenty of fluids and reduce stress.
Remember, even if you do all the above, fall is virus season and colds, especially in children, are very common. Unfortunately, they cannot always be prevented, no matter how hard you try.