With the flu season fast approaching, keeping children healthy during this period is more crucial than ever before.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made it even more critical to protect children from respiratory illnesses, as they may have severe complications if they catch both the flu and Covid-19.
The flu vaccine has long been considered one of the most effective ways to protect against seasonal flu, particularly for high-risk groups such as the elderly, pregnant women, healthcare workers and children.
However, with the Covid-19 pandemic still ongoing, vaccination rates have dipped, while cases of respiratory illnesses in children are, unfortunately, on the rise.
Flu and Covid-19 are different viruses, but they are both respiratory illnesses that share similar symptoms. A child who contracts both illnesses at the same time may be at an increased risk of developing severe complications.
Flu vaccines are safe, tested, and essential in ensuring that children don't fall ill and become more susceptible to other illnesses.
The last thing any parent wants is for their children to contract the flu virus and require hospitalisation.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by 40-60% among the overall population. For children, the vaccine is especially important because they are more vulnerable to the flu and its complications. Children under the age of five are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu, including pneumonia, dehydration, and hospitalisation.
Aside from vaccination, there are additional measures that parents and guardians can take to protect their children from flu and respiratory illnesses this coming winter.
According to Healthline, there's no one exact immune-boosting diet. It may help to eat foods rich in various nutrients and antioxidants, but eating healthfully year-round is a great way to boost immunity which may, in turn, help prevent flu.
Recommended foods to consume to boost immunity this winter season:
- Vitamin C, such as oranges, peppers, and grapefruit, and vitamin D, such as salmon, mushrooms, and fortified milk. Food rich in zinc, such as oysters, red meat, and fortified cereals.
- Selenium foods, such as seafood, eggs, and dairy.
- Iron, such as lean meat, white beans, and nuts.
- Protein, such as beans, nuts, and poultry.
- Probiotics, such as kefir, yogurt, and kimchi.
Tips for parents/guardians
Getting your child vaccinated is just one step in protecting them from the flu. Here are some additional tips for parents and guardians:
Practise good hygiene: Encourage your child to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitiser when soap and water aren't available for at least 20 seconds.
Stay home when sick: If your child is feeling unwell, keep them home from school or daycare until they are feeling better.
Cover coughs and sneezes: Teach your child to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.
Boost their immune system: Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise to help boost their immune system.
Monitor for symptoms: Keep an eye out for symptoms of the flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, and fatigue. If your child develops these symptoms, contact their healthcare provider right away.
Parents and guardians should also take extra measures this year to prevent the spread of the flu by teaching young ones good hygiene practices and other health measures, alongside vaccination.
By doing so, parents can reduce the risk of a double-whammy of Covid-19 and the flu potentially becoming a winter nightmare for their homes. As Dr McCulloch once said: ‘’Prevention is always better than cure, and the flu vaccine is one of the most effective prevention measures we have.’’
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