Children with a long term medical condition or disability can become seriously ill if they have flu or other flu-like illnesses. Many parents tried to plan ahead to prevent flu and flu-like illnesses in their children with long term health conditions.
Clare knew that if her daughter (who has asthma) developed flu or flu-like illness she could rapidly deteriorate. Nia said young children with a long term medical condition can, ‘go from being the walking unwell to being the not walking unwell very, very quickly. So you try to prevent that rapid deterioration.’ Both Michelle and Susan did not realise how serious flu or flu-like illness could be until they saw how it affected their sons.
As well as having the flu vaccine, parents we spoke to took other actions to try to prevent their child getting flu or flu-like illness. If Karen thought Alex was becoming ill, she would increase his fruit, vegetable and vitamin intake and also make sure he got plenty of sleep and rest. Louise said she would let her son have a day off school if he was getting run down. Waj said she kept her daughter warm and reduced outside activities.
Some parents believed having viruses and colds was an important part of building up their child’s immune system. Kate said, ‘Being ill is part of life to be honest. I can’t keep him wrapped up in cotton wool. He needs to get these illnesses and build up his system.’ Karen said, ‘You can’t really avoid life and unfortunately life is other people with their germy hands and germy sneezes and germy coughs.’
Others though were keen to try to reduce the frequency of illness their children experienced. Some avoided children’s parties and playdates to avoid contact with other children who had colds, others were particularly careful about washing their hands. Kate said that she would avoid playdates with children who had colds if it was before her child had an operation or were going on holiday, but otherwise she didn’t.
Other parents, particularly in winter months, tried to avoid crowded areas, such as soft play areas, swimming pools and public transport. Rebecca didn’t send her son to school if there were colds going around. Hyacinth avoided taking her son on buses in the winter. Fiona didn’t take her three year old daughter on planes and trains.
(Also see ‘Influenza (flu) vaccine‘.)