The leaves are turning, the temperatures are falling and the kids are back at school! Fall is here and going into the cold and flu season as a parent can be daunting. There are many questions, myths and truths to sift through, and NorthLakes Community Clinic is here to help answer any questions you may have as a parent.
Did you know that the cold and flu are caused by viruses and not bacteria? Some common illnesses that we contract from viruses are the Head Cold, Stomach Flu and Influenza. Getting sick, even if it’s just a cold, can lead to less sleep, poor eating and just feeling icky. But fear not! There are many steps we can do as parents to help our little ones get through the season so that we don’t miss work/school, and everyone thrives feeling strong and healthy.
How do we protect ourselves from getting infected in the first place? You may have heard it a thousand times, but effective hand washing with soap and water is the key to helping reduce the spread of cold and flu. A person generally has to come into direct contact with infected oral or nasal secretions to get these viral infections. So, teaching your child to wash with soap and water frequently is the secret to putting a stop to the transfer of those nasty infections. It is also important to cover the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing. This can minimize the spread of those infected secretions.
Helping our Immune System
What other preventative measures can we take as parents? Let’s boost those immune systems by immunizing, maintaining a good healthy diet, getting children to bed early, and breastfeeding! Studies show that babies who are breastfed exclusively for six months have a 63% reduced chance of serious colds, stomach bugs, and ear and throat infections. That’s an amazing gift to give your little one. There are many resources in our community to help new moms weigh the important decision of breastfeeding.
Immunizing your child is the single most preventative measure one can take in avoiding dangerous viruses affecting our little ones and their bodies. Immunizations are important, safe and effective. Vaccine-preventable diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough) can be deadly to infants so make sure your children are up to date on all routine immunizations (particularly DTaP and Tdap – the ‘p’ is for pertussis).
The flu vaccine is another way to protect your kids and yourself this fall and winter. Each year, more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized for respiratory and heart problems associated with seasonal flu. It also causes 3,000 to 49,000 deaths annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot each year.
And finally, keep everyone in the family their healthiest by giving their bodies the resources they need to fight infection and fuel their immune system. Good, healthy food including plenty of fruits and vegetables, adequate hydration and good sleep translates into good immune function. As for sleep, although every child is unique, in general toddlers & preschoolers need 11-13 hours of sleep a night. That translates to a lot of evening free time for mom and dad.
So you’ve followed all the preventative measures, and still someone in the family catches a cold. Unfortunately, you can’t take or give an antibiotic to make the cold go away, but you can help manage symptoms and support the immune system in doing its job.
Headache, body aches and fever in older infants and children can be treated at home with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil). Be sure to check with a professional on the proper dosing and how often the medicine can be given. Fever is a sign that the immune system is working hard, however if a fever lasts longer than 2-3 days and it’s greater than 100.4 degrees, you should consider taking your child into the doctor. And for ANY fever in a baby 2 months or less, you should always see your doctor. We often get questions about over the counter cold and cough medications to help with symptoms in children. The FDA recommends avoiding over the counter cough and cold medications for children less than 4 years old and many experts say avoiding these medications for children up to 6 years old is ideal.
Make sure to keep your child home from school until the fever has subsided and they are feeling better. During that stay at home, be sure to get your little one plenty of rest and plenty of fluids. When your child is sick, his energy reserves are all going to his immune system to battle that nasty virus. He may not feel like eating much, and it’s okay to eat a little less for a day or two; just make sure he’s drinking enough to stay well hydrated.
So that’s it! Wash hands, cover your mouth and nose, get your shots, make good food and sleep a priority, and if someone does get sick, stay home to rest and get better. With these practices, hopefully we can all thrive in a healthy community this cold and flu season.
NorthLakes Community Clinic (NLCC) provides medical, dental, mental health counseling, substance use disorder counseling, recovery services, chiropractic, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and prescriptions for patients. Community Health Centers provide care to everyone, including those with commercial insurance, those with government insurance (Medicaid and Medicare) and those without insurance. A sliding fee discount on services may apply for qualifying patients. NLCC has 11 clinic locations in Ashland, Balsam Lake, Hayward, Iron River, Minong, Turtle Lake, and Washburn. Clinics are open Monday through Friday. Call 888-834-4551 to make an appointment. NorthLakes Community Clinic is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.