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Protect Your Children from the Flu

Recent studies indicate that children younger than 2 years old, even healthy ones, have a greater chance than older children of ending up in the hospital with serious complications due to the flu.

These complications include pneumonia (an infection and inflammation of the lungs), dehydration (when a child is too sick to drink sufficient liquids and the body loses too much water), deterioration of long-term medical problems such as heart problems or asthma, encephalopathy (a brain disease) and sinus problems and ear infections. In very few cases, complications from the flu can result in death.

Because children are at a greater risk of developing serious diseases due to the flu, the CDC recommends that all children between the ages of 6 and 23 months be vaccinated against the flu. The use of the flu vaccine in children under the age of 6 months is not approved. The use of antivirus medications against the flu (special medicines used to treat and prevent the flu) is also notapproved for children younger than 6 months. Because babies in this age group can't receive vaccines or antivirus medications even though they have a greater risk of suffering from complications related to the flu, it's especially important to protect them so they don't become infected by the influenza virus. Here are some tips to help you ward off the flu in babies younger than 6 months old.

Tips for people who care for babies younger than 6 months old:

1. Get your vaccinations
If you live with or take care of a baby younger than 6 months, you belong to a group that has priority in receiving a flu vaccine for the current season. In addition, the flu vaccine in nasal spray form (commercially sold under the name FluMist) could also be another option for you (consult ). In years in which there is no vaccine shortage, it's recommended that people who are in contact with children from 0 to 23 months old, and children who have certain medical conditions be vaccinated.

2. Practice healthy habits
Certain healthy habits can help prevent the onset of respiratory diseases such as the flu. Protect yourself and protect your baby by following these routine steps:

  • When you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a disposable cloth or tissue then throw it away after use.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, and especially after coughing or sneezing. If you're not around running water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Do everything possible to keep yourself and your baby away from sick people.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth because this could spread germs.

Tips for caregivers who come down with the flu

If you live with or take care of a baby younger than 6 months, take the following precautions to avoid infecting the baby:

1. Be aware of how the flu is spread
The flu is mainly spread through respiratory mucous that comes from coughing and sneezing. This occurs when an infected person coughs or sneezes and mucous from the cough or sneeze is released into the air, and can then infect other people nearby (usually up to 3 feet). The flu can also be spread by coming into indirect contact with respiratory mucous although this is not as common.

2. Follow these steps
If you have flu-like symptoms ( ) such as fever, headache, exhaustion, cough, throat ache, nasal secretion or congestion, or entire body aches, take the following precautions:

  • Consult your health care provider. If you have the flu, your doctor can prescribe antivirus medications.
  • Try to reduce contact with the baby to a minimum.
  • When you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a disposable cloth or tissue then throw it away after use.
  • Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently and immediately after sneezing or coughing.
  • Before doing anything in close proximity (3 feet) to the baby, such as feeding, changing diapers, or rocking it to sleep, put a surgical mask on (available in most pharmacies), and wash and dry your hands thoroughly. You can find information on hand hygiene at: Don't take the surgical mask off until you've finished with and moved away from the baby.
  • Take these precautions during the first 7 days of coming down with the flu (starting from the first day you noticed symptoms).

3. Be aware of signs and symptoms
Carefully watch the baby for signs of respiratory disease symptoms. If the child has a fever (100°F or more taken from the underarm, 101°F taken orally or 102°F taken from the rectum), respiratory symptoms, or has less energy than normal, consult your child's health care provider.


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