Children are particularly vulnerable to the flu. The best way to keep them safe is to reduce the spread of flu by following these simple guidelines:
- All children older than 6 months should be vaccinated against influenza.
- Children 6 months to 9 years old getting a flu vaccine for the first time will need two doses of vaccine the first year they are vaccinated. The first dose should be given as soon as possible, and the second should be given 28 or more days after the first.
Stay home when sick
Promptly separate and send home students and staff who become ill at school or childcare. Do not accept a sick child in care until the child has been free of fever (100 degrees F or higher) for 24 hours. Care providers who have been sick should not care for children until fever-free for 24 hours.
Teach children to cough and sneeze into a tissue and throw the tissue into the trash. Caregivers should take extra care to cover their own coughs and sneezes with a sleeve. Both children and care providers should wash their hands after coughing or sneezing. Hang signs and posters like "Cover Your Cough" in your school or childcare facility.
Regularly clean surfaces in the building that children and staff touch frequently; clean toys and shared items often, at least daily.
Make sure everyone washes their hands -- alcohol-based hand cleaners may be used, under supervision, when soap and water aren’t available. Care providers should wash hands after tending to an individual child’s needs, such as wiping a nose or changing a diaper.
Keep tissues available in every room.
Carefully watch all children for symptoms of respiratory illness. Have a parent pick up a child if the child develops a fever (100 degrees F or higher), chills, cough, sore throat, headache or muscle aches. Keep the ill child away from others and send him or her home as soon as possible. Infants and young children can become quite ill very quickly and might require urgent medical attention.
If a child has difficulty breathing, appears limp or lifeless or is worsening rapidly, consider calling a physician or 911 in addition to the parent.
Prepare a plan of action in case a large number of children and/or care providers become ill. Notify parents of this plan so they can prepare in case the school or childcare facility has to close due to a staff shortage.
Contact your local health department when increases in respiratory illness occur in the childcare setting, or for recommendations on how to prevent the spread of influenza.
The legal authority to send students home from school is the responsibility of school officials, who should make the decision after consulting with the local public health authority. Officials should balance the goal of reducing the number of people who become seriously ill or die from influenza with the goal of minimizing social disruption, keeping in mind that certain safety risks are sometimes associated with dismissing children from school.