Winter Tips for Parents
Almost every year, there is a seasonal outbreak of flu and other bacterial infections so that within a short period of a few weeks, a significant percentage of the population is ill with a virus with various complications. Flu and its complications are more common among children than adults and many times children are the "purveyors" of flu.
Prof. Eli Bilavsky, a specialist in infectious diseases and a senior pediatrician in Pediatrics “C”, emphasizes the importance of vaccinating your child against flu every year and suggests what to do to ensure as far as possible that your child doesn’t contract recurrent flu during winter.
Flu Vaccination: The flu vaccine is not part of standard inoculations given by the State, but the Ministry of Health recommends vaccination for every child, every winter. The effectiveness of the vaccine differs from year to year, but even in a year with low efficacy (60%-70%), those with the vaccine are less affected. In order to ensure that bacteria do not “enter” your home, it is best to vaccinate everyone in the family over the age of 6 months. This year, the weakened live vaccine administered by nasal spray has been reintroduced albeit that most of the population is vaccinated by injection which contains dead bacteria. The vaccine will be administered in school to children in grades 2, 3 and 4.
Routine Inoculations: The State has a broad-sweeping program for routine inoculations, which have proved most effective on the one hand for disease prevention, and the safest method for the population on the other. Therefore, it is highly recommended to ensure that children have all their standard vaccines. It has become common to separate routine inoculations to reduce their side-effects. This policy has led to a delay in the administration of necessary inoculations especially critical in the first year of life. It is preferable to administer inoculations at the right time and only delay due to illness with fever. Mild symptoms such as a runny nose, cough or sore throat are not reason enough to postpone mandatory inoculations. Over recent months, there has been an outbreak of measles in the country. Vaccination against measles should be considered from the age of 6 months and parents should follow instructions issued about this by the Ministry of Health.
Return to School: Sending sick children to school must be avoided. One sick child can infect a number of other children creating a cycle of infection that it difficult to stop. If every parent would undertake not to send their sick child to various institutions, there would be less cross-infection and fewer sick children. The teacher should be informed of any medical problem the child might have, and any medication the child needs regularly.
Visit to a Pediatric Clinic: Doctors’ clinic waiting rooms in general and those at pediatricians in particular, are invariably full during winter with sick and contagious children. Some respiratory viruses are airborne and some are transferred by contact including contact with surfaces where viruses can remain for a long time. Therefore, any unnecessary visit to the clinic should be avoided as far as possible. A doctor should be consulted immediately for high fever, sickly appearance, vomiting, repeated diarrhea, or unclear rash.
Infection Prevention: Hand-washing with soap should always follow the changing of diapers, going to the toilet and of course before any contact with food. Families with small infants at home should ensure hands are washed before touching the baby and older children should be instructed accordingly. Direct contact with the infant should be avoided if there is a sick family member, and the home kept well aerated.
Proper Use of Antibiotics: Most illnesses during winter are viral where antibiotics are ineffective. Moreover, it has been proved that the administration of antibiotics during the child’s first year raises the risk of infection at an older age (intestinal infections, asthma, and more). However, should a pediatrician prescribe an antibiotic for an infant, this must be administered as directed.
Vaccinations for Pregnant Women: The Ministry of Health recommends that all pregnant women receive flu vaccinations and from the third trimester, also for whooping cough. The aim is to protect the mother from disease and allow the fetus to passively produce antibodies from his mother (via the placenta during pregnancy, and nursing after birth).
Breast Feeding: The advantages of breast feeding have been well proven in the prevention of infection in tender infants during their first year of life. A nursing mother passively passes antibodies against many infections through her milk. Even partial nursing aids protection.
Infections during winter: Nursing should not be stopped and where possible, extended until the spring.
Starting Kindergarten in the First Year: Where possible, the child’s entry to kindergarten should be delayed until the spring. It is important to note and understand that starting the under one-year-old in kindergarten during winter means almost certain infection of the infant from viruses and bacteria. A postponed start during the warmer months will delay the appearance of childhood diseases till a later stage when the child will be better able to cope with the disease.