Coronavirus Update:What patients and families need to know
Protect Your Family by Getting the Flu Shot
While it has always been important for everyone ages 6 months and up to get the flu shot, it is even more important this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 and Flu Season
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues into flu season, it's more important than ever for you and your child to get the flu shot. Flu and COVID-19 cause similar symptoms, and if your child catches them both at the same time, they could have more serious illness as their body tries to fight both. Additionally, if more people are protected against flu from having had the shot, there will be fewer cases of flu in the community. This will help place fewer demands on doctors and hospitals, so they can focus their resources on children with COVID-19. Learn more about the flu shot and COVID-19.
Visitor Guidelines at Children's National Hospital
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have updated our visitor guidelines to protect families and staff. Two healthy parents or caregivers can accompany a child for an appointment; however we ask that, when possible, only one caregiver accompany their child in the effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Only one parent can be at the child’s bedside at a time. Read more about our visitor guidelines.
What You Need to Know About the Flu
Severe influenza complications are most common in children younger than 2 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, about 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of flu-related complications.
During flu season, to protect our patients, we ask all visitors to inpatient areas if they have been sick with any of the following symptoms:
- Fever, chills, body aches and/or fatigue (very tired)
- Cough, stuffy/runny nose or sore throat
- Rash or other skin infections
- Vomiting or diarrhea
During flu season, If you or anyone in your group has been sick with any of the above symptoms in the last five days, we ask that you do not visit the patient.
The flu vaccine is an effective way to prevent or reduce the severity of flu symptoms. Learn more about the flu and the flu vaccine from our experts:
If you still have questions about the flu or flu vaccine after reading our additional resources below, consult with your child's doctor. You can also submit questions to Rise and Shine, our parenting advice site, and look for an answer from one of our experts in the coming weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends certain individuals get a yearly influenza vaccine. This provides the best protection throughout the flu season, which typically ends in early spring.
While children younger than 6 months old are too young to get the influenza vaccine, the best way to protect them is to make sure other people in their families get their flu shots. Plan to get your flu vaccines early, especially if you or your children are part of one of the following groups:
- Pregnant women
- Children 6 months and older; consult a pediatrician to determine if your child requires two doses of influenza vaccine given at least 28 days apart
- Anyone 6 months or older with a chronic health problem such as asthma, kidney disorders, heart disease, cancer or an impaired immune system
- Adults 50 or older who may be at a higher risk of getting flu complications
If you have questions, contact your child's primary care physician. For more information, visit the CDC website.
Flu Prevention Tips
The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is by getting yearly vaccines (unless you or your child's doctor directs otherwise). The influenza vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu.
Prevent your child from having close contact with sick people (hugging, kissing). Symptoms of flu include: fever, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting or diarrhea.
When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth with a tissue and throw it in the trash after use. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not your hand.
Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often.
Do not take children around large crowds when flu is in your community (mall, movies, etc.).
Do not allow your child to share anything that goes into his/her mouth (drinking straws and cups).
If someone in your house has the flu, use a household disinfectant to clean surfaces.
If your child develops flu-like symptoms, keep him/her home from school or daycare. Children should stay home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone without using fever reduction medications. A fever is defined as 100°F or 37.8°C.
When Your Child is Hospitalized for the Flu
- Consider getting a flu shot.
- Wash your hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer frequently.
- Hand sanitizing stations are located throughout the hospital. If you cannot find a sink or sanitizer, ask a staff member for help.
Your child's doctors, nurses and other caregivers may wear yellow gowns and masks when examining your child. They must wear these items to protect themselves from getting the flu and from spreading it to other patients.
- Avoid bringing young siblings of your child to visit while in the hospital.
- Relatives that do not live with the child or who have not been in recent contact could get the flu if they visit. Discuss this with family members before allowing them to visit.
- When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth with a tissue and throw it in the trash after use. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not your hand.
- Wash or sanitize your hands when entering and leaving your child's room.
- Remember that it is OK to remind your child's caregivers to wash their hands before examining your child.
- Notify your child's caregiver immediately if you develop the following symptoms: fever, headache, chills and/or fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.