Many parents are terrified of the flu, and for good reason. It’s hard enough seeing your child sick with anything, but when fever and dehydration come into play, the situation can be dangerous for your little one.

Life, however, must go on and as much as we would sometimes like to, we can’t go hide in a bubble until the flu season is over.

There are precautions that you can take as a caregiver to keep your little one safe from catching or spreading the flu this season.

Preventative Medicine

Though parents may have their own reasons for declining the yearly flu vaccine, health professionals agree that this is one of the best ways to prevent your child from getting the flu.

Even if your little one does still catch this nasty bug, certain studies have shown that those infected with the flu suffer from milder symptoms when they have been inoculated.

Washing Hands

Washing hands can actually be an easy and fun necessity to instil in children, especially toddlers. Make sure hands are washed after contact with shared spaces and before and after eating, as well as at intervals throughout the day.

Teaching proper hand washing techniques can also be fun – ask your kids to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice while washing hands to ensure that their hands are nice and clean.

Washing Shared Surfaces Regularly

Daycares, schools, kitchens, and any other spaces that see a lot of traffic should have their shared surfaces, such as counters, washed regularly, including before and after use.

When visiting the grocery store or other public places, be sure to bring your own sanitising wipes to clean any surfaces that your child will be regularly touching.

Make sure to clean your:

  • Floors
  • Hand Towels
  • Sinks
  • Desks and Tables
  • Toys

Flu viruses can live for a long time (up to 48 hours!) on hard surfaces. On soft or plush surfaces, they can live up to 12 hours.

Sneezing and Coughing Etiquette

Ideally, sneezing and coughing etiquette should be taught to your child before flu season approaches. Tissues should be used and immediately tossed, while coughing is best contained when it’s done into the midsection of the arm, around the elbow.

Teaching these skills can be easily made into a game. The more you practice, the more naturally it will come to your child.

Nose Flushes

Viruses and bacteria can live in the nasal passageways before actually infecting the body. Using nasal saline sprays or nasal bulbs daily can help wipe out those bacteria and viruses before they leave your little one ill.

Daily Massages

Massages increase circulation, allowing your blood to better your immune system with oxygen. Giving your child a daily quick massage or brush can help their immune systems better fight off sickness.

You can also increase your child’s (and your own!) circulation by:

  • Drinking warm beverages
  • Eat iron-rich foods
  • Eat more Omega-3’s
  • Exercise
  • Daily Body Brushing

Thoughtful Diet

The best prevention to the flu is a healthy immune system. Diet contributes greatly to this, and though it can be hard to ensure that your child gets all of the appropriate vitamins and minerals in their daily intake, it’s particularly important around flu season.

Citrus, spinach, broccoli, and yogurt have been shown to be particularly effective immune boosters.

Lots of Water

Water does so many wonderful things for our bodies. It can help flush toxins out of our blood, wash germs and viruses out of your system, and keeps our mouths and eyes moist and less susceptible to contaminants.

Make sure that the entire family stays well hydrated during flu season.

Lots of Sleep

We all know that getting sleep is incredibly helpful when fighting an illness, but sleep can also help prevent the onset of an illness, like the flu, as well.

During sleep, your child’s body will be able to focus all of its attention towards fighting any infection, bacteria, or virus, including the flu. So you want to make doubly sure that your child is getting appropriate sleep each day and night.

Pause Lessons on Sharing

Unfortunately, life is often disruptive to the trajectory that we are on with our kids. Just like teething can disrupt sleep training, flu season should put a pause on any activities that might promote the exchange of germs.

Postpone Playdates

Often politeness can seem more important or immediate than the prospect of your child or other children getting the flu. If you think that your child may be coming down with something, postpone your playdates and keep them home until they’re better.

When to Call the Doctor

Despite all of the best prevention methods, it’s still possible that your child may catch the flu or a nasty cold this season. Though much can be done at home both to heal your child and to keep them comfortable, it’s important to remember the red flags and general guidelines for behaviour or symptoms that can necessitate an immediate call to your paediatrician (for children six months and older):

  • If your child is vomiting for 24 hours or more
  • Cries for longer than 2 hours or has an abnormal cry
  • Has blood in vomit or black faeces
  • Has an unexplained rash
  • Is wheezing
  • Is overly drowsy or lethargic
  • Has diarrhoea for more than 24 hours
  • Has a severe or a swollen sore throat

Is Your Child Still Contagious?

It can be hard to know when it’s time to send your child back to school, daycare, or on a playdate after they’ve had the flu.

As a general rule (although it differs for each strain of the flu virus), children (and adults) are contagious the day before they start exhibiting symptoms, as well as up to one week afterward. Some studies suggest that children can still be contagious for even longer than a week.