It’s here, guys. Flu season is upon us. I took my kids for their well checkups today and their pediatrician said she has already personally seen 3 cases of the flu this month. Ugh. Needless to say, we all got our flu shots today. Winter can bring on a little anxiety if you are the parent of a child with CHD or other complex medical needs. It’s a real fear that a cold or illness could land your child in the hospital. So what can we do to keep our children from getting sick?

Educate others

Keeping from getting sick by going to the doctor to get a flu shot.
Calvin and Addie at the doctor for well checks and flu shots.

Sing it from the roof tops, ladies. Don’t be afraid to tell people how important it is that your child keeps from getting sick. You don’t have to be pushy and annoying about it, but you don’t have to be silent either. Every year I post a cute photo of the kids at the doctor’s office when we get our flu shots. Just to remind everyone we love to go get their flu shot too and tell them why it is so important for our family.

When Calvin was an infant my husband and I were very upfront with others about how getting sick could be fatal for him. We would check in with friends and family before attending get togethers just to make sure no one was sick before we came. We skipped out on many events if someone was feeling “a little off” or had “just some allergies.” Everyone was understanding and did their best to help us (with frequent reminders).

Use your good sense

Here are some tips you are probably already doing at home, but it never hurts to have a good reminder:

  1. Wash your hands – I’m sure you do this frequently. But don’t forget to also wash your child’s hand before they eat too. I’m especially bad at remembering to do this when my kids are in the little toddler stage. However, it’s even more important to wash their hands if they have been crawling around on the floor all day. We also keep handsanitizer everywhere. My husband even mounted this hospital grade foam dispenser to the wall by the door. Bonus points for being “those parents” when friends come over and they have to sanitize to their elbows like they are entering a surgical suite.
  2. Take off your shoes – it’s not a bad idea to have a “no shoes” policy inside your house. We track all kinds of viruses and germs into our houses on the soles of our shoes.
  3. Sanitize pacifiers and teethers – every once in a while throw all the pacis into a steam sanitize bag or the dishwasher. Anything that goes in your child’s mouth needs some sterilization from time to time!
  4. Keep your germs to yourself – teach your kids not to eat or drink after other people, even family members. This one was key. Sometimes you don’t know if someone is sick until they’ve already been contagious for a day or two. If you have been sharing drinks the whole time it may be too late to keep from getting sick.
  5. Break bad habits – encourage your kids not to bite their nails or suck on their fingers. The less they put their hands in their mouths, the less likely they are to get sick. We are currently failing at this one, Calvin is an avid nail biter – you win some, you lose some.
  6. Isolate – if someone in your family gets sick try to limit contact as much as possible with the rest of the family. When my husband or I get sick we shut ourselves up in the bedroom. If a child gets sick, one parent cares for the sick child upstairs and one stays with the well child downstairs. Once, when our daughter had the flu we even sent our son to the grandparents’ house for a few days. This kind of isolation may be impossible if you are a single parent and/or don’t have family close by to help, but do the best you can. In rare cases, wearing a mask might offer the best protection.

Get your shots

I’m going to make some enemies on this one, but it needs to be said. Getting your flu shot every year and keeping up to date with recommended vaccinations goes a long way towards keeping our kids healthy. The flu shot does not ever cause the flu (read that again if you need to). Also, babies with certain CHDs are eligible to receive the Synagis vaccine to protect them against RSV before age 1 (in some cases, up to age 2).

Vaccinations are something we all need to educate ourselves about from reliable resources. Medical journal articles about vaccine safety, the CDC‘s commonly asked questions, or an educated doctor that you trust are all a good start. Don’t take my word for it. I’m a mom and started this blog with a $40 WordPress theme, just like everyone else with a blog. So don’t let the mommy bloggers scare you either, do your own research.

Be careful, not crazy

You mommas are smart. You keep your kids safe and that’s a good thing. But remember to reassess your child’s restrictions as they age. When Calvin was an infant he was very fragile. He had a shunt that caused his oxygen levels to fluctuate with no notice. One moment he would be fine, the next he would be sating in the low 50s. He could not get sick. We were reclusive that winter because we had to be. He didn’t go anywhere but his crib, our living room, my arms, and the doctor’s office (in his carseat hidden under a blanket).

I had cabin fever big time and I was straight up crazy! But, it was just a season. At age 4.5 months he had his second heart surgery and was much more stable. No more shunt meant we didn’t have to be quite as reclusive. Our lives completely changed! We went to the zoo, playgroup, church, and a few months later even braved starting daycare. Although my son’s set of heart defects is pretty severe, it does not mean he can’t see the light of day during the winter. It just means we are more careful about how we go about it. While it’s good to be careful, you also don’t want to go too far towards crazy. Talk to your child’s doctor to see just how careful you need to be in keeping your child from getting sick. Happy flu season!

Also read: Using a Pulxe Ox at Home – Quick Tips for Accuracy