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7 Ways to Keep Your Baby Healthy This Flu Season

According to the CDC, determining the severity of the flu season for the season ahead is next to impossible. Without a doubt, the flu will make its appearance, but the severity and length of the season are anyone’s guess. Because the flu virus is constantly evolving, new strains make an appearance every year. Each year in the United States, there are several outbreaks of seasonal flu that are severe enough to be considered epidemics. “Flu season” generally lasts from October through late May.

Pinpointing the exact beginning of flu season can be tricky. Various geographical locations experience epidemics at different times during the season, but the main activity reaches its peak from December through February when people are forced indoors by the bitterly cold Winter weather. Between five and twenty percent of the overall population of the United States will become infected with the flu at some point during this year’s flu season. 

The very young, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are susceptible to the many complications that can occur with a bout of the flu. Because babies are at high risk for complications resulting from the flu, parents need to take extra precautions to ensure that their little ones stay healthy this flu season.

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6 Getting the Flu Vaccines

The March of Dimes along with the CDC recommend that all babies six months or older receive the flu vaccine. Babies younger than six months are unable to get the vaccine at this time. As soon as your baby turns six months old, he or she can get the flu shot. While the flu season generally lasts from October through May, it is possible to get the flu any time of the year.

There are two types of flu vaccines available these days: standard vaccines via injection are available to children over six months of age, and the flu mist is an option for children two years of age and older. Your child’s healthcare provider will be able to determine which is best for your child. Babies get two doses of flu vaccine the first year, and annual doses after that.

The flu vaccine has been determined to be a safe option for preventing the flu in babies. However, if your baby has had a reaction to prior flu shots, or is allergic to eggs, check with your health care provider in regards to any questions or concerns you may have about the safety of the flu vaccine for your child.

There are many different strains of the flu virus, and they are constantly mutating. The flu vaccine covers three or four flu viruses that are most likely to occur in that particular flu season. Your child will be protected for a year after he or she is fully vaccinated. You can request the flu vaccine at your baby’s well baby appointment, or get the flu shot from a local pharmacy or vaccination clinic. Most insurance companies cover the cost of the flu vaccine.

5 Proper Hand Washing

Flu vaccines don’t come with a 100 percent protection guarantee. Parents of babies still need to take extra precautions with their little ones, regardless of their vaccination status. Proper hand washing goes a long way in preventing the spread of many different kinds of illnesses and diseases including the flu.

Hand washing is a simple way to help stop the spread of the flu. The CDC recommends washing your hands at these times:

● before and after preparing food

● before eating

● before and after having contact with someone who is sick

● before and after taking care of a wound

● after using the restroom

● after helping a child use the restroom, or changing a diaper

● after coughing, blowing your nose or sneezing

● after cleaning up after or having general contact with animals

● after handling trash

Even if you are washing your hands or your child’s hands at the appropriate times, chances are that you aren’t using the proper technique. By using the proper hand washing technique, you will eliminate a greater amount of germs and bacteria.

Here are the steps to washing yours and your baby's hands properly:

● Start with neatly trimmed short nails. Longer nails can harbour germs and bacteria that can spread illness and disease.

● Wet your hands using clean, running water. Apply soap.

● Lather your hands, paying special attention to nails and nail beds. Pay attention to the backs of the hands, and lather between the fingers as well.

● Be sure to lather for at least 30 seconds.

● Rinse hands thoroughly under clean, running water.

● Dry your hands using a towel or let them air-dry.

Because babies constantly put their hands in their mouths, it is important to wash their hands regularly. Soap and water is best, but you can also use a soapy washcloth or a baby wipe. Hand sanitizer is way too harsh for your baby’s delicate skin, and the toxic ingredients can be ingested when baby puts his or her hands in their mouth. Encourage proper hand washing in family members and friends who come into contact with your baby.

4 Disinfecting the House

One of the ways that the flu virus spreads and mutates is by growing on surfaces around the home, school, workplace, and other public places. The flu virus can live twenty-four to forty-eight hours on porous surfaces, or longer if those surfaces are damp or wet.

All it takes for the flu virus to spread is physical contact with an infected surface. This makes keeping a clean home even more important during flu season. Disinfecting toys, doorknobs, countertops, and other household surfaces can help prevent the spread of infection.Wash all surfaces with hot water and a solution of diluted bleach or antibacterial cleaner. Another option is to spray surfaces with an antibacterial spray.

Make sure to wash the infected person’s clothes with soap and water and dry thoroughly. Pay special attention to bedding and undergarments. Disinfecting the sick person’s room can also help stop the spread of the flu.

Wash all dishes in hot soapy water. Add a splash of bleach to the rinse water if washing dishes by hand. Set your dishwasher to the sterilizing setting to avoid the spread of germs. Wipe down shopping carts with the antibacterial wipes that many stores provide. Wash your hands and baby’s hands after going out in public.Don’t let strangers touch your baby or get close to his or her face. Politely remind them to keep their distance for the sake of your baby’s delicate immune system.

Avoid going to public indoor play places during flu season. These places see a high volume of traffic and are rarely disinfected. The combination of germs and a warm enclosed space is a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. 

3 Avoid or Limit Exposure

Another way to prevent your baby from becoming infected with the flu is to limit or avoid exposing your baby to people and environments where the flu is rampant. This is especially important if your baby is under six months old, or suffers from a compromised immune system due to prematurity or illness.

Before a baby is three months old, any illness can bring on complications. Staying in as much as possible during those early months is a must for infection control. You will be able to venture out a bit more once your baby becomes three months old.

Some common places where the flu is prevalent are:

● malls

● theatres

● sporting events

● church nurseries

● doctor’s offices ( take advantage of well child waiting rooms, if available or stand in the hall with your baby)

● stores

● children’s play places

● play group

Most people forget just how delicate a baby’s immune system is, and fail to avoid contact with babies when they are contagious. If someone feels under the weather, suggest that they reschedule their visit with your baby until they are feeling better. Avoid letting older children have friends over to play if they aren’t feeling well.

If your childcare provider is ill, find a replacement. Your childcare provider should have a list of substitute day care providers for you to choose from in the event of illness. If your child attends a child care center, mention sick employees and voice your concerns. In the event that replacement child care isn’t an option, you can call into work, or recommend that the care provider takes extra precautions to keep your child well.

Your child care provider or day care center should have a policy in place in regards to sick children. Be courteous and respect the policy’s guidelines to avoid starting a flu outbreak.

2 Getting Proper Sleep

Catching the right amount of zzz's can help boost your baby’s immune system by leaps and bounds. “It’s an old wives’ tale that if you don’t sleep well, you will get sick, and there is some experimental data that shows that this is true”, revealed Dr. Diwakar Balachandran, director of The Sleep Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Fifty to seventy percent of our society is sleep deprived, and our children are no exception. In our always on the go society, it’s easy to neglect proper rest. Newborns and babies who are younger than six months need sixteen to twenty hours of sleep each day. Babies older than six months of age, but younger than one year require fifteen hours of sleep daily.

According to the National Institute of Health, recent research has expanded to include a discussion that includes the effects of a lack of sleep on the immune system. Because the immune system encompasses almost every system in the body, the effects of sleep on inflammation in the body, endocrine function, and basic cellular function affect immunity as well. In subjects that received inadequate amounts of sleep, the body exhibited signs of inflammation and other signs of general stress. 

Sleep is important to fighting infections

This overall stress impaired the immune system’s ability to ward off illness and disease. There has long been a link between mood and the ability to fight off illness. Those with a lack of sleep were prone to moodiness and other negative emotions, this affected the immune system of subjects on a psychosomatic level. Ensuring quality sleep for your baby is vital to his or her overall health. Here are some tips to help your baby get a quality night’s sleep:

● Keep your baby active during the day. Fresh air and exercise help pave the way for a good night’s sleep.

● Create a bedtime routine. Bathing, cuddling, snuggling, and quiet music all help your baby to decompress and get ready for sleep.

● Make sure baby’s room isn’t too hot or too cold.

● Make sleep a priority. Schedule activities around baby’s bedtime. This may mean saying “no” to evening get-togethers or outings, but the effects of a good night’s sleep on your baby’s health are worth the sacrifice.

6. Breastfeed If Possible

Breastfeeding boosts baby’s immune system and helps to protect from the flu, colds, ear infections, respiratory illnesses, strep, and staph, among other things.

This is largely in part to the antibodies that are present in breastmilk. Newborns have immature immune systems that are unable to fight off illness and disease. Breastmilk gives babies immunity to illnesses that the mother has developed immunity to as well as those which the mother has been exposed to but not contracted.

Breastfeeding allows germs to pass from baby to mother so that your immune system can create antibodies in order to fight a particular infection. By the next feeding, your breastmilk will contain just the right antibodies to combat the germs that are affecting your baby and help him or her to avoid illness.

Breastfeeding helps your baby’s immune system to mature more quickly than a formula fed baby. Because breastmilk is more easily digested, your baby will recover from illness faster than babies who are not breastfed. Most women are able to breastfeed their babies. Pumping milk for the baby is an excellent choice for working mothers. Most workplaces make allowances for mothers who need to pump milk for their babies.

Taking a few simple precautions can help boost your baby’s immunity, and prevent him or her from catching the flu as well as other illnesses.

1 Wearing Face Masks

It may sound like something out of a science fiction movie or an overly extreme measure, but the National Institute of Health recommends wearing a face mask when the chances of exposure to the influenza virus may be high.

In 2009, during the H1N1 epidemic, research showed that wearing a face mask or respirator prevented the transmission of influenza among the general population. The main body of evidence that supports this was based upon people who were already infected with the disease. Wearing a mask proved highly valuable in preventing the transmission of the H1N1 virus to those who were not already infected.

The evidence also suggested that there was some additional benefit to wearing the face masks by non-infected persons as a preventative measure.

As a parent, we often wonder how much contact we should have with our children when we are sick. Wearing a face mask or respirator can help prevent the spread of influenza between parent and child. This, along with excellent hand washing skills, minimizes the chances of transmission of the influenza virus between parent and child.

Taking these steps could prove especially valuable when dealing with a premature baby, or a child with a compromised immune system. Taking a few simple precautions can help boost your baby’s immunity and prevent him or her from catching the flu, as well as other illnesses.

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