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Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

October 10, 2022, Lyndy Jones, MD ,
3 Tips to Help Keep Your Family Healthy This Fall
3 Tips to Help Keep Your Family Healthy This Fall

School is back in session and kids are spending more time together, which means a higher risk of getting infected with viruses such as seasonal influenza (flu) and COVID-19. Vaccines are available to help protect against serious illness from both viruses, but when is the best time for your child to get them? Can kids get both vaccines at the same appointment? What else can you do to help keep your children healthy?

Find answers to these questions, along with other ways to help keep family members healthy, with the tips below.

1. Flu and COVID-19 vaccines help protect from serious illness.

Both flu and COVID-19 share similar symptoms, such as a fever, headache, sore throat, cough and fatigue, but they are different illnesses that require different vaccines. The flu vaccine is designed to protect against the flu strains researchers believe will be most common each year, but it does not protect against COVID-19. Likewise, the COVID-19 vaccine is not effective against the flu.

While flu and COVID-19 vaccines may not completely prevent illness, it’s important for every eligible member of your family to get both vaccines to help lower their risk of serious illness. Children, teens and adults can safely get both vaccines during a single health care visit with their appropriate provider.

Families whose children are seen at Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics can call their pediatrician’s office to schedule flu and COVID-19 vaccines for their children. These vaccines are also widely available at physician’s offices and local pharmacies.

Everyone 6 months of age and older is eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine and the yearly flu vaccine. According to Dr. Jane (Lyndy) Jones, co-medical director, Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics, “We recommend that children get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available, and ideally no later than the end of October, so that they are protected during the peak flu season.”

Because flu viruses constantly evolve, the strains of flu that were most common last year will likely be different this year. That’s why it’s important that your family member receive a flu vaccine every year. Not only does it reduce the risk of severe illness, it also helps prevent the spread of flu to other family members, friends and schoolmates.

2. If your child feels sick, call your pediatrician.

Both the flu and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses spread mainly by close contact with infected people. Since they share many of the same symptoms, it’s not always easy to distinguish between the two. In fact, some children may be infected with both viruses at the same time.

Testing can distinguish which infections are present, and that can help determine appropriate next steps and treatment options. If your child experiences symptoms, schedule an appointment with their doctor. If you are looking for a pediatric provider in your neighborhood, Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics has locations throughout the Valley and in Cottonwood. All our locations offer influenza, rapid COVID-19 antigen and COVID-19 RT-PCR tests.

Please note, children undergoing medical procedures at Phoenix Children’s Hospital will be given a COVID-19 test at the hospital prior to treatment.

3. Help your child maintain healthy habits.

Healthy habits also play an important role in helping protect children from illness. Encourage your child to:

  • Wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds — especially after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the restroom; and also, before and after eating
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching their face, especially their eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow to avoid spreading germs
  • Keep a safe distance from others who are sneezing or coughing
  • Get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet

Fall is such a wonderful time of year. Taking simple precautions like getting vaccines and practicing healthy habits can help protect your family from serious illness — so you can enjoy all that autumn has to offer.

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