Simple Steps Can Keep Families Healthy During Cold and Flu

With the flu vaccine shortage, parents are searching for answers on how to keep their children healthy during the cold and flu season.

Many parents confuse the flu with a rotavirus infection. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus that causes symptoms such as high fever, headache, dry cough and sore throat.

Rotavirus, often confused with the flu, is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. It is more prevalent than the flu in children from 6 months to 5 years old. More than 3 million cases of rotavirus are diagnosed every year, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine currently available for rotavirus.

Parents can teach and practice defensive measures to decrease the chances of infection and keep their children healthy this season.

Because germs and viruses tend to stay on the hands, frequently washing hands, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing, using hand sanitizer, and using disposable diapers for infants can help prevent the spread of illnesses among friends and family members.

It also is important for parents to stock up on the necessities to fight the flu and rotavirus head-on and to keep surfaces clean, especially those on which food is prepared, such as countertops and tables.

One of the primary challenges for children who have rotavirus is the threat of dehydration. When vomiting or diarrhea occur, excessive amounts of fluid and electrolytes can be lost. Giving an oral electrolyte solution formulated especially for children at the first sign of infection can help reduce a child’s risk of dehydration.

“Common household beverages like sports drinks, soda and juices contain large amounts of sugar which can draw water into the intestines and away from the rest of the body, making diarrhea worse and increasing the risk of dehydration,” said Dr. Robert Murray, a professor of gastroenterology and pediatrics at the Ohio State University and a medical director with Abbott’s Ross Products Division. “I cannot stress enough the importance of staying well-hydrated during an episode of diarrhea and vomiting. Drinks such as Pedialyte are an excellent source for re-hydration since it is formulated specifically for young children.”