Flu season is upon us and it’s not looking pretty….
Like every year when flu season strikes, kids are usually the first to suffer.
Children are more likely than adults to catch the flu when they’re exposed, and they’re usually the ones most to blame for circulating the virus.
What is Influenza, or the flu?
Influenza (or “flu”) is an infection caused by the influenza virus.
Since it’s a viral respiratory infection it affects the nose, throat, and lungs.
Influenza outbreaks happen every year, flu infections are most common during flu “season,” starting from October.
There are many types of influenza viruses. Because influenza viruses change, people don’t stay immune for very long. That’s why people can catch the flu more than once. The term “seasonal flu” is used for the influenza viruses that spread every year.
How does influenza spread?
Influenza viruses are found in the nose and throat. Children can catch influenza from siblings, parents, other family members, playmates or anyone they get in close contact with.
Germs usually spread in one of three ways:
When someone carries a virus, germs will be present in the nose, mouth, eyes or on the skin. When someone who is infected touches other people, they can pass on the virus.
Some germs, like the ones that cause colds and diarrhea, can stay on surfaces for many hours, this is why sometimes by touching something that has been touched by an infected person, one can get infected.
Some germs spread through the air when a person coughs or sneezes. Droplets from the cough or sneeze may reach another person’s nose or mouth.
How do I know if my child has influenza?
The flu strikes more quickly than a cold, and makes people feel worse.
Children with colds would have energy to play and keep up their daily routines whereas children with influenza will usually have low energy and be bedridden.
Common Flu symptoms in children
Typical Flu symptoms can force any adult to bed for several days so needless to say that children are usually in pretty bad shape when flu strikes.
Some typical flu symptoms, such as headache and muscle aches, can be hard to detect in kids too young to describe what they’re feeling.
Other common flu symptoms include:
Fever (although not everyone with flu has a fever)
Chills and body shakes
Runny or stuffy nose
Serious Flu symptoms in children
Healthcare providers cautions that even children who are generally healthy can get dangerously sick with the flu. Parents should seek immediate emergency help if a child has any of these symptoms or conditions:
Vomiting and diarrhea
Fever induced convulsions
Fast breathing or difficult breathing
Bluish or gray skin
Not drinking enough fluids (signs of dehydration include having dark yellow urine and not urinating as much as usual)
Severe or persistent vomiting
Lethargy (Not waking up or not interacting)
Extreme irritability (not wanting to be held for example)
Children age 5 or younger, especially those younger than 2 are at risk for serious complications if they get the flu.
Each year a growing number of children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized with flu complications such as pneumonia.
Protect your family from the Flu
We can’t really completely avoid the flu but, here are few steps that can help lower the risks and effects of the virus.
Get the flu shot
Ideally, by the end of October parents must immunize their child against influenza.
In healthy kids, the flu shot is up to 90 percent effective.
Keep in mind babies under six months of age can’t be vaccinated, so it’s recommended that parents take their own shot to avoid exposing their little ones.
Stay away from sick people
Children are more likely to catch the flu in crowded places.
While it may not be possible to keep children out of school or nursery, avoiding malls, public play areas…. will reduce the odds of picking up flu germs.
Teach children hand hygiene
Hand washing is the most proven method of stemming the spread of germs and viruses, below are few easy hand washing tips to remember:
Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or wiping your nose.
Wash your hands after being in contact with someone who has a respiratory infection.
Wash your own hands and your child’s hands after wiping your child’s nose.
When water and soap are not available, use wet wipes or alcohol-based hand rinses.
Children must be taught how to wash their hands properly.
They need to learn scrub their hands with warm, soap.
Get children into the habit of washing before they eat, after the bathroom, and whenever their hands are dirty.
Don’t be a carrier
According to many pediatricians kids can often catch the flu from their carrier parents. If you already have one child who’s sick, parents can unwittingly pass germs to another child just by attending to the sick child.
Keep the risk to a minimum by washing hands frequently and using household disinfectant to clean any surfaces like taps, door handles or toys that might have been exposed to the flu virus.
Humidify your home
Many studies have shown that low-humidity environments contribute to flu virus.
This is why Influenza viruses spread in winter, when the moisture level in the air is down.
Research has suggested that home humidifiers may help to kill off the flu virus.
It It is suggested to keep Humidity level at a 40 to 60 percent range.
Stop the Spread
Teach children to cover their nose and mouth with tissues when they sneeze or cough, or to cough into their upper sleeve or elbow.
Avoid sharing toys that young children place in their mouths until the toys have been cleaned.
Avoid sharing cups, utensils or towels until they have been washed.
If a child attends nursery, inform the management about any symptoms and ask if the child should stay home that day.
Parents should make sure their children receive all of the recommended vaccines. They will help prevent some of the complications, such as bacterial infections of the ears or lungs.
Boost Immune system.
Strengthening the immune defenses might lessen the risk of infections or at least improve the ability of the body to fight off the viruses.
Here are few tips to help boost children’s immune system:
Promote healthy sleep time
Eat more fruits and vegetables, they are full of vitamins hence they help promote better immune defense.
Give a daily dose of Black Cumin: Black Cumin is an incredible immunity booster, parents should consult their child doctor or a naturopath to choose the best way and form of black cumin. Black Cumin has been praised by scientists and healthcare specialists in recent years but it is also a prophetic medicine, below the hadith compiled in Sahih Al-Bukhari
“Narrated by Khalid bin Sad: We went out and Ghalib bin Abjar was accompanying us. He fell ill on the way and when we arrived at Medina he was still sick. Ibn Abi ‘Atiq came to visit him and said to us, “Treat him with black cumin. Take five or seven seeds and crush them (mix the powder with oil) and drop the resulting mixture into both nostrils, for Aisha has narrated to me that she heard the Prophet (saws) saying, ‘This black cumin is healing for all diseases except As-Sam.’ Aisha asked ‘What is As-Sam?’ He (the Prophet (saws)) replied ‘Death.” (Hadith 7.591).
“Narrated by Abu Huraira: I heard Allah’s Messenger (saws) saying, “There is healing in black cumin for all diseases except death.” Hadith 7.592
But what to do if despite all precautions a child catches the flu?
How can I help my child feel more comfortable when he has the flu?
First and foremost one must start by asking for Allah’s to give the child Shiffah.
Aisha (raa) stated that when anyone among them had an illness, Prophet Mohammad (SAW.) used to rub the area of the pain reciting the following dua:
“أَذْهِبِ الْبَأْسَ رَبَّ النَّاسِ وَاشْفِ أَنْتَ الشَّافِي لَا شِفَاءَ إِلَّا شِفَاؤُكَ شِفَاءٌ لَا يُغَادِرُ سَقَمَاً”
Increase Rest and fluids intake
Parents must make sure their child gets enough rest and most importantly drinks plenty of fluids.
Most children get a little fussy when sick so it is recommended to try offering them soups, or broth, juices, instead of food and of course plenty of water.
Many doctors encourage parents to limit milk intake as flu might be accompanied by diarrhea.
Ease the pain
Parents can give their child a pediatric pain reliever, to relieve muscle aches and fever.
Never give aspirin to a child who has the flu or is suspected of having the flu as it can trigger Reye’s syndrome, a rare but life-threatening medical condition.
Parents MUST resist the urge to ask their child doctor for antibiotics, which kill only bacteria.
The flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria, so antibiotics won’t do a thing.
However, in some cases a child might need antibiotics if he develops a secondary bacterial infection, such as pneumonia, an ear infection, or bronchitis, as a result of having the flu.
Try Safe Home Remedies
Safe home remedies can help soothe flu symptoms.
Parents can try giving their little one honey to help with sore throat or tummy pain.
Gargling with warm water will also ease a sore throat and salt water nasal rinses do wonders to clear mucus from the respiratory track.
Don’t give over-the-counter medicine
OTC cough and cold medicines shouldn’t be administered to children younger than 6 years old unless prescribed by a doctor.
Coughing helps clear mucus from the chest.
Many OTC cough and cold products contain drugs to ease coughing.
Also parents must know that most studies of these drugs have been done in adults and the few that have been done in children show no benefit.
A child might be prescribed an antiviral drug in the case of severe influenza.
We hope our little ones will stay healthy this season In Shaa Allah.