Eighty percent (80%) of all influenza diagnoses happen between the months of January and March. With flu activity increasing, be sure that your child’s day care or early-education provider is prepared to deal with the flu virus if it hits their organization.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that all people over 6-months of age receive the flu shot, especially those with chronic illnesses. It is not too late in the season to get your family vaccinated, and encourage others in your life to do the same… including your child care providers and staff. Once you have received the vaccine, it typically takes between 2-4 weeks for your body to build antibodies. It is important to get a new vaccine each year because the vaccine often changes year to year, in order to compete with that year’s common virus strains. You may have read that this year’s vaccine is the same as last years; you will still need a new vaccination this year, as the antibodies in your system may have worn off over time.
Three or four different strains of the virus are included in each year’s vaccine. One of the more common strains circulating this year is actually not in this year’s vaccine, which may cause the vaccine to be less effective against the H3N2 virus. The American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends all people over the age of 6-months and their caregivers be vaccinated as soon as possible. The vaccine as an antiviral treatment is an important second line of defense for children being treated for influenza.
Once the flu begins to spread, there are other steps you can take to protect your family. It may be difficult to stop germs from spreading, as the influenza virus is easily circulated. It is important to know that someone can be infected with the influenza virus, and show no symptoms, making it hard to detect and prevent. During this time, a person is still contagious, and may still spread the virus to others.
Ask about policies at your child care center for preventing the spread of influenza. These policies should focus on a number of factors, including hand washing, cleaning and sanitizing procedures for surfaces and toys, as well as excluding children and caregivers who are infected. A child or caregiver with symptoms like a cough, runny nose, sore throat, and a fever should not be allowed at the center, in order to protect the other children. Once a fever has broken without the use of fever-reducing medication, a child or caregiver should be allowed to return.
If you are still concerned about your child care center’s preparedness, encourage them to review the following information:
- Review the AAP Influenza Prevention and Control Information for Caregivers and Teachers Fact Sheet.
- View the Archived AAP Webinar: View the 90-minute AAP webinar: “Improving Head Start/Child Care and Community Readiness and Response to Seasonal Influenza.” This webinar will help staff to increase their knowledge of important influenza prevention and control strategies for this year’s influenza season.
- Complete Online Training: Take the free 1-hour AAP/CDC online course “Influenza Prevention & Control: Strategies for Early Education & Child Care Providers.” This course educates staff who work in Head Start and other early education and child care programs about influenza policies and strategies that help keep children healthy. The course is approved for 1.0 contact hour.
- Display Materials: Display educational materials in Head Start or other early education and child care facilities to encourage proper hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette.
- Learn More: Review the AAP Managing Infectious Disease Outbreaks chapter. This chapter outlines important strategies to assist in preparing for and identifying a potential outbreak. Seasonal influenza and enterovirus-D68 can lead to similar symptoms. To ensure the health of the children in your care, the AAP recommends that caregivers and teachers be vigilant about managing infectious diseases (e.g. emphasize the need for immunizations, and implement infection control and exclusion practices). The AAP has also developed information for parents and child care programs and schools on EV-D68.
- Preventing the Flu: Resources for Parents and Child Care Providers
- Ebola, Enterovirus D68 & Flu: Strategies for Child Care, Schools
- Preventing the Spread of Illness in Child Care or Schools
- Caring for Our Children (National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education)
- Healthy Child Care America – Coordinated by the AAP Early Education and Child Care Initiatives and is partly funded by the Office of Child Care (OCC), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, HRSA, US Department of Health & Human Services.
- Preparing Child Care Programs for Pandemic and Seasonal Influenza (AAP.org)
- No More Excuses: You Need a Flu Vaccine! (CDC.gov)
- Flu Information – Free Print Materials (CDC.gov)
- Flu Fighter Coloring Book – Arm your child with the F.A.C.T.S. about flu (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases)
- Prevent Childhood Influenza (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases/Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition)
This article is sponsored by the Modena NY office of Children’s Medical group. Your Modena NY Pediatrician cares for children from Modena to New Paltz, from Highland to Gardiner, and many other communities in Ulster Counties. Learn more about our Modena location.