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Take Simple Steps to Avoid Dreaded Spread of Flu in Daycare

​​​By: Andrew N. Hashikawa, MD, FAAP

We have learned a lot about how to help kids in daycare avoid illness from COVID-19.

Still, many in child care are too young to get COVID vaccines. Children younger than 2 years are too young to wear a mask.

Many contagious illnesses like the flu, COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and colds are going around. What else can be done to keep children healthy?

Get a flu shot

For kids in daycare settings, staying up to date on vaccines like flu vaccinations is key. Flu shots will not prevent COVID, the cold, or RSV. But like these illnesses, the flu can make babies and young children very sick.

Nearly every flu season, very young children are hit the hardest by the flu. In 2019-2020, a record-breaking 199 children died from the flu. Most who died that year had not received flu vaccinations.

Flu vaccines protect babies and young kids. That way, it is much less likely they will need hospital care or die from flu complications. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends flu vaccines for babies and children 6 months of age and older. Your child can catch up on all immunizations at a well-child visit.

And remember, adults need annual flu shots, too. Child care staff may have received their COVID vaccines. But COVID shots do not protect us from the flu.

It's not too late!

The timing of flu season can change each year. Flu season usually starts in October, peaks in February and may last into May.

Children eligible for a flu shot and COVID shot can get both at the same visit. The AAP recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 5 years old and older. Adults and kids 12 years and older should get a COVID booster, too, when it is time. (Read about COVID boosters for kids here.)

Flu shots protect the people around us.

What happens at daycare when everyone is up to date on vaccinations?

  • Kids can stay in school and other activities.

  • Adults will not have to miss work or obligations.

  • We protect children who are too young to get vaccinated.

  • We keep those around us safe—people at high risk of serious illness, like cancer patients and our grandparents. Older people (65 years and older) need flu shots, too. They are at higher risk of getting very sick from the flu.

Being up to date on vaccines protects infants and young kids in child care who are too young to get vaccinated.

Serious flu illness and death can be (mostly) avoided.

We all know that little kids like to put everything in their mouths! Young children's immune systems are not fully developed. Flu shots help protect young kids when they are exposed to influenza virus in child care.

So why do some children with the flu end up in the hospital? The flu can make their body very weak—much more than a common cold. Children may need hospital care if their body becomes too weak from the flu. Sometimes, children develop complications from being sick, like pneumonia (when the infection spreads to the lungs).

There is no cure for the flu. Antiviral medicine can shorten the time that a person is sick. But they do not replace the need to get a flu shot.

Remember

As we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is not one way to prevent illnesses at child care. But layers of protection will keep us safe. This includes:

  • teaching young children how to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer,

  • wearing a well-fitting mask if 2 years or older,

  • making sure that eligible children and staff are vaccinated

  • keeping everyone informed about child care sick-child policies so they know when a sick child should stay home, and

  • call your doctor if you have any questions.

When we all do our part, it keeps us healthy. It keeps our friends healthy—and it protects those at highest risk, too.

More information

Andrew Hashikawa

Andrew Hashikawa, MD, FAAP, is a clinical associate professor in the emergency medicine and pediatrics departments at Michigan Medicine and a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Early Childhood Executive Committee and is an early childhood champion and child care health consultant. His research has focused on infectious disease surveillance in child care programs.

Last Updated
2/24/2022
Source
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2022)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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