Keeping Your Family Healthy

Protecting Your Family From the Flu

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

The flu isn’t something to take lightly. During the 1918 influenza pandemic, approximately one third of the world’s population became infected, and 675,000 people in the United States died. A century later, the flu remains a deadly disease.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, there were 180 influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported during the 2017-2018 flu season, including two confirmed in state by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Many more Michiganders — including more than 1,600 children and adults — were hospitalized for serious flu-like symptoms last year.

That’s why doctors recommend yearly flu shots as the first line of prevention.

“The flu vaccine should be given to everyone over the age of 6 months unless there is a medical contraindication. This is the best option for reducing your child’s risk of severe illness or complications from the flu,” says Henry Ford pediatrician Ashley Falco, M.D. “If possible, children should receive their flu vaccines by the end of October.”

Two flu shots are recommended for children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years old who have not been vaccinated previously.

“Everyone in a household should receive the vaccine, including pregnant women, grandparents and child care providers to help reduce the spread of the illness,” Dr. Falco says. “The flu vaccine is inactive and cannot give you or your child the flu.”

Related Topic: How to Make the Most of Your Child’s Well Visit

According to the CDC, it takes about two weeks after vaccination for protective antibodies to develop.

In past years, the flu vaccine being given was not a good match for the actual flu strain circulating at the time. However, Dr. Falco says you and your children should still be vaccinated.

“Like all vaccines, the flu shot is not 100 percent effective in preventing disease. But it will help to reduce severity of the disease,” she says. “This is especially important in high-risk groups including those with asthma, heart disease or a weakened immune system. In addition to protecting your own child by giving them the flu vaccine you are also helping to protect those who are unable to receive the vaccine.”

Other Ways to Fight the Spread of the Flu

There are everyday actions to fight the spread of the virus. “Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, then dispose of your tissue properly and wash your hands,” Dr. Falco says.

Proper hand washing is a simple step that can reduce illness dramatically. Remember to wet your hands, lather with soap, scrub for at least 20 seconds, rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Dr. Falco recommends singing a song like “Happy Birthday” to teach children the correct amount of time to scrub. If soap and water is not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be used.

Need a flu shot? Henry Ford Health System offers walk-in flu shots at these locations. Also, if you or your child is sick, check out our many convenient same-day care options at henryford.com/sameday.

Dr. Ashley Falco is a board-certified pediatrician seeing patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Pierson in Grosse Pointe Farms.