The fall and winter months offer lots of reasons to celebrate -- Halloween, Thanksgiving, ice skating, playing in the snow, just to name a few. But looming large and ominously among all the merriment and celebration is the onset of flu season. Getting sick is bad enough when you have only to care for yourself. But tending to sick children increases the challenge. And this year with the added risk of the H1N1 virus, there is an increased potential for a long and trying flu season. Now, in addition to runny noses and sleepless nights, you have to be prepared for the possibility of school and daycare closures, and perhaps longer bouts of the flu. Moreover, the recommendations about vaccination protocols seem to be ever changing. One shot or two? How long in between vaccinations? What's a parent to do?
Well, the Centers for Disease Control has recently updated its guidance for parents and offers the following advice:
* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
* Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
With regard to vaccinations, the CDC recommends that the following groups, among others, get vaccinated:
All children between the ages of 6 months to 24 years because cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza have been seen in children who are in close contact with each other in school and day care settings, which increases the likelihood of disease spread; and
Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age because younger infants are at higher risk of influenza-related complications and cannot be vaccinated. Vaccination of those in close contact with infants younger than 6 months old might help protect infants by "cocooning" them from the virus;
And, with regard to the vexing question of how many vaccinations are necessary, the CDC recommends:
Two doses for children ages 6 months to 9 years old. The doses should be given between 21 and 28 days apart.
One dose for children 10 years or older.
Inactivated 2009 H1N1 vaccine can be administered at the same visit as any other vaccine, including pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Live 2009 H1N1 vaccine can be administered at the same visit as any other live or inactivated vaccine EXCEPT seasonal live attenuated influenza vaccine.
The CDC routinely updates its website with more information, so go to www.cdc.gov for the latest news and reports. Hopefully, all of the tips above will allow you to spend more time enjoying winter than nursing a flu.
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