School is several things—it is the place where our children learn and develop cognitively, gain social skills, thrive to become self-sufficient and productive members of society. Nevertheless, it can also, occasionally, be a place where they may pick up germs and bring them home. Now that school is in session, children can bring back home a `horde` of nasty germs. 


While social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram are ideal places on the internet for a countless number of school-age children to share their experiences and interact with their friends, it is their close physical encounters within the real, live social networks at school that can bear a potential risk to their health. Children spend a lot of time together in classrooms, with lots of activities that bring them nearby and at the same time put them at a higher risk for spreading infections such as the flu!


Flu is the commonly-used lingo to describe `influenza` which is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. When a sick child coughs or sneezes, lots of tiny droplets containing the influenza virus are released into the air and nearby classmates, including your child, can inhale it. The virus can also gain entry when your child touches a contaminated hard surface (such as doorknobs, desk surfaces, toys, etc.) and then places his fingers in his nose or rubs his eyes.


When the causative virus invades the child`s respiratory tract, the flu comes on hard and very fast. It triggers an inflammatory process that leads to nasal congestion, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and fever. Affected children commonly suffer a temperature between 38.5 – 39° C (about 101 to 102° F), and it may go up to 40° C (104° F) in some cases. Other characteristic symptoms include chills, body aches, decreased appetite, fatigue, and headache. Some children may even throw up or have loose motions.


In the majority of cases, healthy children recover from the flu without complications. Fever usually lasts for few days then subsides, but the cough may linger for 1-2 weeks or even more occasionally. Many parents are under the false impression that influenza is the same as the common cold. While the common cold is usually a mild infection that often goes away after a few days, influenza is a more serious respiratory tract infection that can endanger the health and may result in hospitalization. Influenza infection can weaken the child`s immune system, and this can allow the bacteria to cause a secondary bacterial infection, such as infection of the middle ear (Otitis Media), the sinuses (Sinusitis), and the lungs (Bronchitis or Pneumonia).


How can you protect your child from the flu?


The best way to protect against the flu and its potential health-threatening complications is for your child to receive the flu vaccine. Vaccination is recommended annually for all children aged six months and older who do not have any contraindication to the vaccine.


The flu vaccine is safe. Some minor side effects of the injectable flu vaccine include temporary local soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site. Rarely, some children may develop a fever or body aches that can last for one or two days. As a parent, it is imperative to understand that the vaccine cannot cause the flu as it contains inactivated (dead) influenza virus; your child is not going to be sick because he received the vaccine.


Although vaccination is the most effective way to fight off the flu, making healthy choices at school can also play an additional role in protecting your child from the flu. Teach your child to wash his hands properly and regularly, especially before eating his lunch and after using the bathroom. Remind him to wash his hands after sneezing or coughing or to use an alcohol-based sanitizer. Proper coughing/sneezing behaviours are invaluable; teach your child to cough or sneeze into his elbow so that the germs do not end up on his hands. Last but never least, remind your child not to share his personal items, especially drinking cups or water bottles.


Now that your child is returning to school, be sure to get ready for the inevitable; the possibility of `back-to-school` ailments. It is difficult to predict who will catch the flu, but vaccination remains the most effective and safe tool to reduce the probability of your child getting sick with the flu.


At the Dubai London Clinic and Speciality Hospital, our paediatricians pride themselves on providing compassionate and comprehensive preventative and therapeutic services to all children from birth through adolescence within a warm and child-friendly environment.


We wish your splendid child a successful, thriving, and healthy academic year.


The Department of Paediatrics



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