Flu season typically begins in November and ends around March. Unlike the common cold, the influenza virus can be very serious for babies and young children, especially those who are not old enough for their vaccines. There are a few things that you can do to protect your little ones during the flu season.
1. Be extra diligent for the first few months. Babies who are not old enough to have received their first vaccines are especially vulnerable. Keep them home as much as possible, and ensure that anyone who visits is up to date on their vaccinations. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer close by, and ask visitors to use it before touching or holding baby.
2. Vaccinate. Make sure that your child is up to date on all their vaccinations. Children over 6 months should get the annual flu vaccine. Moms and dads, you should be getting your annual flu vaccine too. It is best to get the vaccine as soon as it is available, usually sometime in September, to protect yourself and your little ones throughout the flu season.
3. Wash your hands consistently. Practice hand washing with little ones.
4. If any friends or family show cold or flu-like symptoms, keep them away from babies, especially those younger than 6 months. Young babies have immature immune systems, and are very susceptible to illness.
5. For young babies: keep them covered when out in public. Use a lightweight muslin to cover their stroller, or drape a muslin over their head if you are baby wearing. Don't let strangers touch your baby.
6. If you breastfeed, continue to do so even if you feel sick or unwell. Your body will develop antibodies when you are sick, which will be passed onto baby through breastmilk, which will then provide them with some immunity.
7. Keep hand sanitizer on you when you are out and about, especially if you are traveling. Wipe down airplane seats and trays before settling into your seat when traveling.
8. If your little one develops any symptoms of the flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, vomiting/diarrhea, contact your pediatrician as soon as possible.