There are many things nannies do every day to keep the kids they look after safe and healthy. Making sure they wear their bike helmets, sit down while eating to prevent choking, and wash their hands frequently. Nannies can also help by not getting the kids sick from illnesses they get or carry. Vaccinations help protect them from getting sick and keep us from accidentally passing on serious illness to the kids in our care.
There are two illnesses that are common – so, easy to get – that can make young children very sick. These are influenza “the flu” and pertussis “whooping cough”. Getting vaccinated can help keep nannies and the kids in your care, safe from these illnesses.
Influenza is an infection caused by a virus – a tiny germ that can live for hours on hands and other surfaces. It spreads faster in damp conditions during the fall and winter, when people spend more time inside and are close together on buses, and trains.
Flu can cause fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, fatigue and even vomiting and diarrhea. Most grownups get better in a few days. But, children under 5 years of age, and those with other medical conditions, such as asthma, are at higher risk for developing serious complications from the flu and needing to be hospitalized.
Complications can include infection of the lungs, dehydration, inflammation of the brain and even death. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 20,000 children under 5 are hospitalized due to the flu each year. Children under 6 months of age are not old enough to get vaccinated against the flu for their own protection. So, these babies are at the greatest risk for developing complications from the flu. To keep them safe, all care providers should be vaccinated, including parents, nannies, baby sitters, and grandparents. And, because the virus changes all the time, a new shot or nose spray is required every year. The new vaccine is usually available every fall.
Pertussis or “whooping cough” is a disease that has been growing over the last few years. According to the CDC, in 2012 over 48,000 cases were reported in the U.S. with 20 deaths. This is the highest number of cases in almost 60 years.
Pertussis can cause uncomfortable coughing fits for 10 weeks or more. In adults, pertussis can be a mild illness that they may not even know they have. However, in children, it can cause serious illness and sometimes death, especially in infants. About half of infants under 1 year of age who get pertussis need to be hospitalized. Although most adults in the US were vaccinated against whooping cough when they were children, we now know that protection wears off over time and adults need to be revaccinated every 10 years, which is one of the reasons more people are getting sick from pertussis.
To keep them safe, everyone who is in close contact with an infant should get the Tdap vaccine at least 2 weeks before visiting the baby. By getting the vaccine not only are you protecting the baby, you are also protecting yourself against the “100 day cough”!
Both the flu and pertussis vaccines are safe, effective, and will help keep you and the children you care for healthy.
Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season,
Sapna K. Mukherjee, MD
Premium Care Pediatrics- A house call based concierge practice