Jennifer Marr, D.N.P.
Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine (Children)
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With peak cold and flu season here, a local health care expert has some helpful updates and reminders for parents to be aware of, especially with the Holidays approaching.
Jennifer Marr, D.N.P, a pediatric and adolescent medicine nurse practitioner with Mayo Clinic Health System, says the flu mist is in short supply so parents will want to talk to their kids about getting protected against the flu by getting the actual flu shot.
“Honesty is best when explaining to your kids they will likely be receiving a shot,” Marr says. “The flu vaccine is intended to prevent you, your kids, their friends, their grandparents and others from getting influenza. It can also reduce the severity of symptoms or how long you or your kids are sick.”
Marr says in addition to being honest with kids about needing a shot, bringing something to distract your child may be helpful, like a favorite video that can be pulled up on your phone.
While she doesn’t always recommend a “prize” after the flu shot appointment, she does say that depending on the age of the child, an incentive — like ice cream after the appointment — can also work.
“Our nursing staff is skilled at making kids feel secure and having parents part of the process. Within a couple of hours of this little poke, they have forgotten all about it.”
WHEN DOES THE FLU HIT?
Traditionally, flu season peaks in February, with December being the second most common peak month, followed by March. Marr says this explains why it often feels like the flu season drags on and why many people continue to catch and spread the influenza virus.
“Healthy kids can bounce back faster than adults, but because kids are in day care or school, they often get sick back-to-back. While this may build their immune system, it can be really hard on families.”
To stay as healthy as possible, Marr recommends families maintain healthy habits, including hand washing, getting plenty of sleep and eating well — in addition to the flu shot — to help prevent getting sick.
Marr says this is especially important for certain populations, including infants and young children, pregnant women, grandma and grandpa, and those with compromised immune systems, such as individuals being treated with chemotherapy or an organ transplant. These groups, she says, are at higher risk for flu-related complications.
“There is no reason not to get the flu vaccine unless your provider recommends against it,” Marr says. “Otherwise, the benefits of the flu vaccine far outweigh the risk of serious illness.”
TIPS FOR AVOIDING THE FLU
- The simplest thing you can do is wash your hands and teach your kids to do the same. Wash hands thoroughly and frequently with warm water and soap. Do this before leaving the bathroom, eating or touching your face. A good rule of thumb is to wash hands for 20 seconds; about as long as it takes to sing “the ABCs.”
- Cover your cough with the crook of your elbow, and teach your kids to do the same.
- Stay home from work or school if you’re ill.
- Keep vaccines current for you and your family.