As we are midway through autumn and the chill is in the air, the cold and flu season has also started. Having a sick baby is not fun, so we talked to family physician, Dr. Deborah Wong from Raffles Medical to learn more about what we can do this season.
5 Tips to Prevent Your Baby from Getting the Cold/Flu?
Good hygiene! Wash your hands before touching your baby
Keep your baby away from crowded areas
Avoid contact with people who are sick
Use a humidifier/air purifier to keep baby respiratory tract healthy
Make sure yours and your baby’s vaccines are up to date
If my baby has a cold/flu, when should I take them to see a doctor?
Take your baby to see a doctor if your baby has a fever, not feeding, breathing problems, irritable, bad cough, runny nose that does not go away after a week, vomits, lethargy, develops a rash. It is difficult to tell when your baby needs to see a doctor, if you are worried take them anyway! Your doctor will be happy to take a look.
Is the flu shot necessary?
Flu shot is recommended for those 6 months and above. Especially for those who are at higher risk of developing complications from the flu virus. These people are:
• Children aged 6 months through 4 years
• People aged 50 years and older;*
• People with chronic lung disease (including asthma), heart disease (except hypertension), and kidney, liver, neurologic, blood, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus);
• People who are immunosuppressed due to any cause (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection);
• Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season and women up to two weeks after delivery;
• People who are aged 6 months through 18 years who are receiving aspirin or salicylate-containing medications and who therefore might be at risk for experiencing Reye syndrome after influenza virus infection;
• People who are residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities;
• People with extreme obesity (body-mass index [BMI] is 40 or greater);
• Health care personnel;
• Household contacts and caregivers of children younger than 5 years and adults aged 50 years and older, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children aged younger than 6 months; and
• Household contacts and caregivers of people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.
What is the difference between a cold and a flu?
Cold and flu are both respiratory illness but caused by different viruses. They both have similar symptoms such as runny nose, stuffy nose and cough but the symptoms in flu can be more severe. There are thousands of viruses that can cause a cold whereas the influenza virus is responsible for the flu. When you have the flu, you can have a higher fever, severe body aches on top of the respiratory symptoms.
Is a flu shot recommended for parents of little ones? Why?
Yes. Not just them by the child too! Children are at increased risk of developing complications from the flu virus. By protecting the parents and the child it reduces the possibility of being infected.
Pregnant mums are encouraged to get the flu vaccine, as apart from being more prone to complications, the antibodies that pregnant mums develop can be passed to the baby to protect them in the first 6 months of life when they are not able to be vaccinated for the flu virus yet. Same forthe DTP (diphtheria, pertussis and whooping cough vaccine!)
Is it true that flu shot can only target the strain from last year?
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and updated as needed to keep up with changing flu viruses.
If I get the flu shot, can I still get sick? Can I pass this to my baby?
Yes. It’s possible to get sick with flu even if you have been vaccinated. This may be because of a strain that the vaccine did not cover – sometimes that’s why there are flu epidemics, because the prediction for the year was wrong. Some people still get flu even with a strain they are vaccinated against, however, it has been shown that people who have the flu vaccine have a milder illness and are less likely to develop complications than someone who have had the vaccine. If you have the flu, you may still be contagious, however if your baby has been vaccinated as well, it reduces their risk of developing symptoms and complications.
Contributed by Dr. Deborah Wong, family physician, Raffles Medical
Dr. Wong obtained her MBBS from National University of Singapore adn post graduate training in Family Medicine with the College of Family Physicians Singapore. She has a special interest in preventive health, women health and sports medicine. She has undergone training and attained various certifications in exercise medicine and clinical orthopedic manual therapy. She is fluent in English and Mandarin.
Level 2, Innov Tower, 1801 Hongmei Road (near Yishan Rd)
Tel: 021 6197 2330
And for a bit of mom humor, don’t forget this classic reason why we all need to stay safe this season