THE STAR – Parents play a crucial role in helping to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, such as influenza, especially to their own infants and children.
This is because influenza easily spreads from one person to another, and statistics show that one in four infants or young children are hospitalised because of this disease.
Influenza is also a greater threat than the common cold as it can cause serious complications.
Even if infants or young children stay at home without going out, they still face indirect exposure to influenza from their parents or other caregivers/visitors.
In the case of parents, they may be exposed to influenza when they go out to work, buy groceries or for any social gathering.
As parents usually have close contact with their children, this increases the risk of transmission, especially as they could be an asymptomatic carrier.
What’s worse is that influenza is often mistaken for the common cold, as they both have similar symptoms, such as fever, cough and runny nose.
One of the reasons infants or young children tend to be more severely affected by influenza is because their immune system is still developing.
Delays in getting treatment because it is mistaken for the common cold can also increase the risk of complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections.
If your child has a chronic health condition (eg asthma, heart disease, diabetes, etc) or is below five years of age, then he would also face a higher risk of developing complications.
There has been an unexpected positive outcome from the Covid-19 pandemic with regards to influenza.
Because influenza is a type of respiratory infection, the Covid-19 prevention standard operating procedures have been helpful in also limiting the spread of influenza.
Coupled with the movement control order that started in 2020, this led to a drop in the number of reported influenza cases in Malaysia over the past two years.
However, with businesses, travel and social activities going almost back to pre-pandemic normal, the number of respiratory illnesses, including influenza, are going up again.
So, as a quick recap, here are the preventive steps you should observe to help prevent you and your child from catching the flu:
– Avoid taking infants out to public places as there is a higher risk of exposure.
– When taking a child out to public areas, make sure that she wears a face mask.
– Bring along (and use) a hand sanitiser when taking your child out of the house.
IF YOU ALREADY HAVE FLU-LIKE SYMPTOMS, THEN:
– Keep your distance from your child until you have fully recovered.
– Follow proper sneezing/coughing etiquette.
– Use a hand sanitiser after touching your face/nose.
-Do not share your eating utensils, drinking straws, drinks or tooth brush with your child (or other people).
DON’T LEAVE IT TO CHANCE
While the COVID-19 SOPs and the measures described above can help minimise the risk of influenza to your child, your best option for prevention still lies with vaccination.
Most experts agree vaccination plays a crucial role in the prevention of childhood diseases.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), US Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices (ACIP) and the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) are among the professional healthcare groups that advocate that young children (six months and older) should be vaccinated against influenza every year.
In addition to vaccinating your child against influenza, do get yourself vaccinated every year too.