Protect yourself from the flu, and you protect your children too


If you have flu-like symptoms, keep your distance from your child and use a hand sanitiser after touching your face, especially your nose. — Positive Parenting

Parents play a crucial role in helping to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, such as influenza, especially to their own infants and children.

This is because influenza easily spreads from one person to another, and statistics show that one in four infants or young children are hospitalised because of this disease.

Influenza is also a greater threat than the common cold as it can cause serious complications.

Home exposure

Even if infants or young children stay at home without going out, they still face indirect exposure to influenza from their parents or other caregivers/visitors.

In the case of parents, they may be exposed to influenza when they go out to work, buy groceries or for any social gathering.

As parents usually have close contact with their children, this increases the risk of transmission, especially as they could be an asymptomatic carrier.

What’s worse is that influenza is often mistaken for the common cold, as they both have similar symptoms, such as fever, cough and runny nose.

One of the reasons infants or young children tend to be more severely affected by influenza is because their immune system is still developing.

Delays in getting treatment because it is mistaken for the common cold can also increase the risk of complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections.

If your child has a chronic health condition (e.g. asthma, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) or is below five years of age, then he would also face a higher risk of developing complications.

Preventive steps

There has been an unexpected positive outcome from the Covid-19 pandemic with regards to influenza.

Because influenza is a type of respiratory infection, the Covid-19 prevention standard operating procedures have been helpful in also limiting the spread of influenza.

Coupled with the movement control order that started in 2020, this led to a drop in the number of reported influenza cases in Malaysia over the past two years.

However, with businesses, travel and social activities going almost back to pre-pandemic normal, the number of respiratory illnesses, including influenza, are going up again.

So, as a quick recap, here are the preventive steps you should observe to help prevent you and your child from catching the flu:

  • Avoid taking infants out to public places as there is a higher risk of exposure.
  • When taking a child out to public areas, make sure that she wears a face mask.
  • Bring along (and use) a hand sanitiser when taking your child out of the house.
  • If you already have flu-like symptoms, then:

    > Keep your distance from your child until you have fully recovered.

    > Follow proper sneezing/coughing etiquette.

    > Use a hand sanitiser after touching your face/nose.

  • Do not share your eating utensils,drinking straws, drinks or tooth brush with your child (or other people).

Don’t leave it to chance

While the Covid-19 SOPs and the measures described above can help minimise the risk of influenza to your child, your best option for prevention still lies with vaccination.

Most experts agree vaccination plays a crucial role in the prevention of childhood diseases.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), US Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices (ACIP) and the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) are among the professional healthcare groups that advocate that young children (six months and older) should be vaccinated against influenza every year.

In addition to vaccinating your child against influenza, do get yourself vaccinated every year too.

As parents, you may not fall under the high-risk group, but vaccination is still an important form of prevention.

As the active influenza virus is different every year, you will need to be vaccinated every year for optimal protection.

Remember: by protecting yourself, you are also protecting your child.

Just as how the Covid-19 vaccination has been successful in reducing the number of cases (thus helping to control the pandemic), flu vaccination is also crucial for preventing a flu outbreak.

Despite the cliché, prevention is the best cure!

Dr Husna Musa is a paediatrician and lecturer, and Datuk Dr Musa Mohd Nordin is a consultant paediatrician and neonatologist. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only, and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Child health , flu , infectious diseases

   

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