Flu season is, unfortunately, upon us. It's possible to get the flu at any time, but "flu season" is a period of about five to seven months when most cases pop up.
In addition to making you tired, achy, congested, and also nauseated, the flu can also be fatal in some cases. It's important to take precautions to prevent it, especially if you have a baby in your care. They're unable to help themselves, so we have to look out for them! Here are 10 ways to prepare your baby for flu season.
10 Know When Flu Season Starts
Your baby can get the flu at any time of year, but the likelihood increases during flu season. So the first stage of prep is knowing when it starts and ends. Some people don't even realize that season has started, and thus end up prepping too late. Fortunately, that doesn't have to be you.
Flu season just technically started at the end of October and, though the season's length can fluctuate, it can last as long as the end of May. During this time, it will usually reach its peak around December, then again in February.
9 Know The Symptoms
The flu is caused by the influenza virus. The CDC describes it as a "contagious respiratory illness" which affects the "nose, throat and sometimes, lungs." Symptoms include fevers, coughs, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, fatigue, and more.
In most adult cases, the flu doesn't require any medical attention. It usually runs its course over a week or two. Elderly people and small children are extra vulnerable, however. These groups are more likely to see their flu turn into pneumonia, which is an even more dangerous respiratory illness.
8 Practice Good Hygiene
One of the easiest ways to give your baby a leg up this flu season is to practice good hygiene. Viruses thrive in unsanitary environments, where they're also more likely to be transmitted. The flu is also commonly transmitted through dirty hands, so make sure that you wash them regularly and dry with a paper or cloth towel. Hand sanitizer works too.
You should also keep highly trafficked areas and objects in your home as clean as possible. Regularly wipe down doorknobs and countertops with disinfectant wipes (meant for viruses, not just bacteria) or bleach.
7 Breastfeed Them (If You Can)
There is much debate over whether breast milk of formula best suits and infants' needs. However, the benefits of breast milk outweigh those from formula, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
One reason for this is because breast milk is packed full of important antibodies that your baby needs to fight off infections. Since their immune system isn't fully formed at birth, breast milk helps their body stave off illnesses—including the flu. With that said, if you can't breastfeed for one reason or another, you shouldn't feel bad. Formula might not be quite as effective, but it still does a good job of providing your baby with vitamins and nutrients. Plus, there are ways to help prepare for flu season.
6 Invest In Disinfectant Wipes
It's not always possible to whip out the bleach and microfiber cloths. When you're in a bind, disinfectant wipes can go a long way.
Most of them remove 99.9% of germs, which means they're perfect for wiping down desks, doorknobs, or anything else you need to be cleaned. Just make sure that you read the label. Not ever wipe can kill every germ. Some brands are just for bacteria. For flu season, you need the ones that specifically claim to kill the influenza virus.
5 Keep Them Away From Crowds
Aside from the plunging temps, the main reason that flu cases rise during the Winter is because of all of the social holidays that occur. Celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas means that we're congregating around more people than usual.
Social gatherings are a breeding ground for viruses to thrive. That's why it's best to limit your baby's exposure to other people during this time.
4 Give Them A Flu Shot If They're Old Enough
Your baby's best defense against the flu is the flu vaccine, administered via shot (and if they're over two, possibly nasal spray). The process involves doctors injecting your baby with three inactive strains of the flu virus, which will jumpstart their immune response, should they come into contact with an active strain.
Unfortunately, the flu shot is only safe for babies six months and older. If your baby is under six months, their immune system isn't formed enough to combat even the inactive strain.
3 Get A Flu Shot Yourself
Most people should get a flu shot for basic prevention. But if you have a small baby, then it should be on the top of your list, each season. This is especially true if your baby isn't old to get vaccinated themselves. If your baby's own immunity can't save them, then yours is the next best thing.
Flu shots are usually inexpensive and easily accessible. If you have certain types of insurance you might be able to get it for free. So, no excuses!
2 Stock Up On Medicine
Unfortunately, your baby can still get the flu even they're vaccinated. If that happens, the last thing you want to have to do is to run to the drug store with a sick baby in the winter.
Most cases of the flu don't require medical attention, but there are still things you can keep on hand to help ease its symptoms. Try to stock up on things like Pedialyte (which can ward off dehydration), thermometers, and other over the counter cold and cough aides.
1 Keep Their Doctor's Number Handy
If your baby does get the flu, you should make sure to monitor them closely. Babies are more susceptible to the most dangerous forms of the flu (or the pneumonia that might follow), so they need to be given extra care.
In some cases a doctor's visit may be necessary, so keep your baby's pediatrician on speed dial. If your baby doesn't have a pediatrician, then the emergency room works, too.