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CareFirst Encourages Health and Wellness for Children

How children can stay healthy during cold season and avoid contracting the flu

Baltimore, MD (October 8, 2012) - With the weather changing and temperatures dropping, the cold season is around the corner and children are more susceptible to becoming sick. It is important for children – and their parents -- to take proper measures to ensure children’s health and well-being. With the change of temperature, come many unwanted germs and illnesses -- the seasonal influenza being a common infection.

Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. It is more dangerous for children than the common cold.

Every year, about of 20,000 children under the age of 5 contract the seasonal flu, with many cases resulting in death. The flu spreads when people with the illness cough, sneeze or talk, transferring germs to others nearby.

Although timing of the flu season varies, it usually begins in October and can last until May – with the peak activity being in January and February. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages everyone 6 months and older to get a yearly vaccine. This season’s flu vaccine – available as a shot or nasal mist – will protect against three common flu viruses including, influenza H1N1, influenza H3N2 and influenza B.

It is especially important for children with chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes to take proper preventive care measures to avoid contracting the flu. Children who have asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, ultimately worsening flu symptoms and their asthma.

“While many people see the flu as a benign illness or just a cold, it can be serious,” said Dr. Daniel Winn, Senior Medical Director for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. “Not only do children miss school and parents miss work, but the flu can cause complications such as sinusitis, pneumonia, and less commonly myocarditis or pericarditis (inflammation of the heart).”

While getting a flu vaccine is highly recommended, there are some routine procedures to prevent children from becoming sick and spreading germs. They include:

  • Wash hands in hot water regularly;
  • Take hand sanitizer to school;
  • Disinfect children’s items such as lunch boxes weekly;
  • Avoid contact with others who are ill and stay home if you are sick;
  • Avoid touching your face. Germs are easily transferred from your hands to your mouth, nose and eyes;
  • Cover your cough with your arm;
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to help build a strong immune system; and
  • Stay active.

Symptoms of the flu* include:

  • Fever;
  • Cough;
  • Sore throat;
  • Runny or stuffy nose;
  • Muscle or body aches;
  • Headaches;
  • Fatigue; and
  • Severe cases may have vomiting and diarrhea, which is more common in children than adults.

* Source: CDC website

For more information about protecting children from the flu visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the federal government’s flu finder for a vaccination center near you.

About CareFirst
In its 75th year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health care company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to 3.4 million individuals and groups in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. In 2011, CareFirst contributed $51 million to community programs designed to increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of health care throughout its market areas. To learn more about CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, visit our web site at www.carefirst.com or follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CareFirst_News.

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