Your ultimate guide to preparing for flu season

Emmy Samtani
Emmy Samtani
Emmy is the founder of Kiindred and mother to 3 little ones. Over the last 4 years, she has worked with some of the most credible experts in the parenting space and is a keen contributor on all things parenthood.
Created on May 22, 2024 · 6 mins read

For the past few years, the flu season has peaked early in Australia. We’ve barely stepped foot into Term two (which is a headspin in itself), and the coughing, sneezing, and “Is it hot in here or is it just me?”has already crept into our homes.


Too often, it can feel like we’re scrambling to outrun the flu season. One blink and suddenly the balmy carefree days of summer have slipped away, leaving us with red noses and piles of tissues at best. At worst, influenza can have detrimental and even life-threatening effects; especially for babies, young children, pregnant women, and those with underlying health conditions.

There is no better time to prepare your family for flu season than now – especially amidst the rise of respiratory illnesses like RSV and COVID-19. Schools and daycares have already taken a hit this year, so it’s essential we come together to support and protect each other.

These are some of the expert-advised strategies you can take to stave off influenza in your community this winter.

1. Find a handwashing song


It might seem basic, but remember – we’re working with kids here. They get so wrapped up in excitement for everything, from butterflies to funny-shaped potato chips, that washing their hands becomes an afterthought.

The best shot we have at getting their hands germ-free is by giving this mundane task a fun twist. How do we do that? By weaving in a musical element.

Back when we became handwashing aficionados (thank you 2020), we learned that 20 seconds is the goal length of time under the tap. For a grown-up, that might mean the chorus of Beyonce’s ‘Love on Top’ or Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’.

But for our littlest family members, they could sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice or go through their ABCs. The Wiggles also made a handwashing song in partnership with UNICEF if your child loves a familiar face!

2. Vaccinate the whole family


Vaccination is your family’s strongest defense against flu season.

Last year, 39 people in Australia died from influenza. Of those fatalities, 9 were children under 16. When we look at why, there was a concerningly low rate of vaccinations in this age group.

The flu shot saves lives. Research strongly supports that by getting vaccinated, you’re less likely to end up at the hospital from influenza complications.

For people most at risk, the flu shot is free. This includes:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
  • Children aged 6 months to under 5 years
  • Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
  • People aged 65 years and over
  • People aged 6 months and over who have medical conditions (such as asthma) that make them vulnerable to complications

If your child is under nine and receiving the flu shot for the first time, they’ll need two doses spread four weeks apart.

The flu shot is most effective for three months after administration. It’s important to get vaccinated ahead of the peak of the flu season, which typically occurs between June and September each year.  

However, if time has gotten away from you, it’s never too late to be vaccinated.

3. Consider topping up on masks


By this point, you might’ve lost track of which drawer your copious colourful and patterned face masks are sitting in. Maybe you’ve lost them altogether

But face masks help to protect you from droplets spread through coughing, sneezing, or speaking (i.e. common ways that influenza spreads). 

It’s not a bad idea to top up your mask collection and have a few handy. Whether you’re going to visit an older relative, new baby, or just want to give your family some extra protection this flu season.

Wearing a mask is a personal choice that should be approached with kindness and compassion.

4. Fill your kids with nutritious meals


Before we get into this, we do have to stress that diet alone can’t prevent your child from catching the flu. It can be helpful in tandem with good hygiene and up-to-date immunisations, helping to strengthen your child’s immunity against winter colds and viruses.

For our body’s immune system to function at its best, it needs the help of ‘micronutrients’ like vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, and protein. If we’re able to evenly build these into our family’s diet, we have a better chance against flu season.

Aim for a diverse spread of citrus fruits, almonds, broccoli, meat, dairy, fish, and whole grains, while being mindful of your child’s own dietary allergies or sensitivities.

5. Take a breather from all the sharing


After so much time and energy telling your kid that sharing is caring, this might feel a little contradictory… But when it comes to the flu, sharing isn’t caring!

Teach your family that whilst it’s nice to share time and toys, we shouldn’t be sharing cutlery, cups, or water bottles. If they or a friend has left a water bottle at home, they can opt for a bubbler or reach out to a teacher.

Flu season means we’re all in this together. Even if your child isn’t at risk of serious complications, one of their friends might be. So, by giving them the best anti-spread practices, you can protect someone else’s kid too.

6. Wash and clean your home regularly


If we were forced to take a microscope and assess all the germs spread around our homes, it would be pretty confronting. But germs are a part of life, and for the most part, our body does a good job of defending us against the bad ones.

Having said that, staying on top of spring cleaning and regularly washing our bedsheets and towels can help slow down the spread of bacteria and viruses. It’s also a good idea to regularly wipe down high-touch surfaces with antibacterial sprays and give your bathrooms some elbow grease.

Wrapping it up


We get it… flu season for parents can be anxiety-inducing. You’re trying to protect your family, keep everyone in school and daycare, dodge doctor and hospital visits, and all while seeing an influx of scary headlines in the news.

Influenza can be serious, yes. But by getting your family vaccinated and following a few of the above steps, you can take action to curb the spread and look after your family and community.

Sources


https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/influenza-flu-vaccine

https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/contents/vaccine-preventable-diseases/influenza-flu

https://www.health.gov.au/news/time-to-get-your-flu-vaccine

https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/recommendations/women-who-are-pregnant-are-recommended-to-receive-influenza-vaccine-in-each-pregnancy

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