According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2018 flu season is not just an epidemic, but it’s one of the worst flu seasons in at least a decade. As of the CDC’s Jan. 27 flu update, at least 53 children have died from the flu this during this dangerous and widespread flu season. Here’s what parents need to do to protect their kids from the flu epidemic.

Currently, the flu has been reported in all 50 U.S. states, with some states hit much harder by the flu than others. In Texas, a flu outbreak closed an entire school district because there were so many cases. While most people associate the flu with seven to 10 days of miserable body aches, a terrible headache and high fever, children have a higher risk of developing complications from the flu, as do other vulnerable populations such as the elderly, pregnant women and the immunocompromised.

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Get Your Kids Flu Shots ASAP

Contrary to what you might have heard in your mom's group on Facebook, it's not too late to get the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is your numero uno weapon against the flu every year.

Yes, the flu vaccine doesn't always work for everyone and yes, it doesn't account for every flu strain germ-ing up the place this year—but if you do get the flu after having the vaccine, the symptoms won't be as severe. Also, each flu vaccine is developed the previous year, based off of predictions about which flu strains will wreak the most havoc. Sometimes pharma gets it right, and sometimes those sneaky flu viruses mutate in ways that couldn't be predicted.

Also, if you or your kid feels kind of crappy for a few days after getting the shot, that's totally normal, assures Dr. Mia Finkelston in an interview with EliteDaily last month. Finkelston noted that anywhere from one to two weeks after getting the flu vaccine, "your body starts to produce antibodies, and some people will feel tired, slightly achy, and may even get low-grade fevers." 

So, you're not really getting sick after getting the flu shot—but if you're worried, get thee or the wee one to a doctor.(And as always, check with your own healthcare provider before taking any medical advice you read here.)

 

Tell Your Kids to Wash Their Hands Basically All the Time

The flu virus is most commonly spread through direct contact, but flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for as long as 24 hours. So, that door handle that some flu-ridden kiddo touched yesterday that your kid touched today? Yeah—I'm washing my hands out of sympathetic paranoia for you.

Also, just running your hands under water isn't going to cut it. Kids need to wash their hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.

A good way to keep them from dashing away from the sink too soon is to have them sing a short song while they wash their hands. "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and Doc McStuffins' "Time For Your Check Up" are perfect tunes for your little ones to sing or hum all the way through.

 

Remind Them Not to Touch Their Faces

I get it: You spend a few minutes standing outside in the cold and your nose starts crankin' out "the drippies" as we call them in our house. As parents, we deal with our fair share of snot-encrusted sleeves on wash day, but if you really want to keep the flu at bay, remind your kids to keep their hands away from their faces.

When in doubt, have them reach for a tissue first to wipe away tears or runny noses. Now is also a great time to break that thumb-sucking habit your kiddo might have, too.

 

Make Sure They Cover Their Coughs & Sneezes

True story: I got pneumonia (again) this year. I'm pretty sure the original infection happened when my sick preschooler coughed into my open mouth (gross, I know) as I picked him up for bedtime one night. 

Teach kids to cough or sneeze into the crook of their arms or their shoulders—or at least grab a tissue if they can't—and never, ever cough or sneeze into bare hands. And if the cough or sneeze surprises them and they get their natural effervescence onto their hands, make sure they head right to the sink to wash their hands.

 

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

While the flu season normally peaks mid-February, this year's flu epidemic is especially pervasive. CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told CNN, "We have not hit our peak yet, unfortunately. Really, the bottom line is, there is still likely many more weeks to go."

Translation: Take extra care to keep your little germ vectors—I mean, darling children—safe this flu season. We've got a long way to go yet.

Have you managed to escape the flu epidemic this year? Share your secrets for staying flu-free in the comments.

—Keiko Zoll

 

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