The flu frenzy

My first child, the darling Emerson Lee Foster, was born at the end of November. The first six weeks of her life have been full of love, joy, celebration and… a lot, lot of paranoia.

Seems like all I can think about sometimes are bad drivers, BPA, blocked airways, falling picture frames and contagious diseases. Yes, I drive myself crazy. And it’s been especially difficult to keep my sanity as I’ve started hearing an excessive amount of sniffling and coughing the past few weeks. In the office. At the store. All over the mall.

I can’t escape it. The flu season is revving up. But, luckily, I have the experts at Children’s to help me make it through – as you do, too.

So, I asked the director of the infectious disease department at Children’s, Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, if he could give us some advice on keeping our children healthy the next couple of months.

Me: When is it safe for parents of babies to take their children out in public places? 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months? Or should they just refrain from taking babies out into crowds during flu season?

Dr. Kahn: There are no official recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control that specify the age that young children can be safely taken to public places during influenza season. The best advice for parents and other caretakers would be to be cautious when influenza is circulating in the community. That information can be found at the CDC website (or follow the CDC’s Twitter account that focuses entirely on flu news, @CDCFlu). Good hand washing for anyone who will hold/touch the child will also decrease the risk of influenza transmission. The best way to protect young children from the flu is vaccination (when they reach the appropriate age of older than 6 months). Also, vaccination of all those who come in regular contact with the baby (since a large proportion of influenza infections are acquired from infected individuals within the home) is the best way to protect children who are too young or not eligible to receive the vaccine.

Me: Is it a good idea for children to receive a flu vaccination now if they haven’t already received one? Is it too late?

Dr. Kahn: There is still time for children to get the influenza vaccination. At this time, there is still little influenza activity in north Texas suggesting that the “flu” season is yet to come. Vaccination is the BEST way to protect children from the flu. There are no school requirements for flu vaccination BUT All children who are eligible should be vaccinated.

Me: Is there a difference in the effectiveness of the flu shot and the flu mist?

Dr. Kahn: For the most part, these vaccines are of equal efficacy. For children who are eligible for either vaccine, the decision can be made by the parent, clinician and/or the child!

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