Parents urged not to send children with flu-like symptoms to school

The HSE is urging parents not to send their children to school if they have flu-like illnesses or any of the associated symptoms, such as a high temperature, aches and pains, or a chesty cough in a bid to curtail the spread of the infection.

The appeal comes from the health authority’s assistant national director of Public and Child Health Dr Kevin Kelleher who says that anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids, and use over-the-counter remedies such as paracetamol to ease their symptoms.

It is not too late to get the flu vaccination and he is appealing to people in high-risk groups to avail of it. These include everyone aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, anyone over six months of age with a long term illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung or heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment. If anyone in this group contracts flu they are adivised to contact their GP.

The level of flu and influenza like illness remains high in the community and the best way to avoid getting it is to get vaccinated. “We know this year’s vaccine is a good match for the current strain of flu and the best way to prevent it is by getting vaccinated. Flu can be a very serious and sometimes deadly disease.

“People need to remember that flu causes severe illness and death in Ireland every year. That is why those who are most vulnerable to the complications of flu need to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is the only defence against flu, yet every year many people in the at-risk groups fail to get vaccinated and so put themselves at risk of serious illness or even death.”

He stressed that the vaccine reduces infection and associated illnesses and hospitalisation. “Flu is very infectious and can cause potentially serious illnesses especially for older people, those who have a chronic illness, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women. Seasonal flu vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy and also protects the baby. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu as it does not contain any live flu virus and all those at risk should get vaccinated as soon as possible this year to make sure that they are protected.”

People with flu like symptoms should telephone their GP or the emergency department of their local hospital in advance of attending to explain that you might have flu.

How to help stop the spread of flu

1. Covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze can help stop the spread of flu.

2. Use a tissue and place it immediately in the bin.

3. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer·

4. Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.

3. Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands or you will spread germs on to everything you touch.

The influenza vaccine is available free from GPs for people in at-risk groups and from pharmacists for everyone in at-risk groups aged 10 years and older. An administration charge may apply to people who do not hold medical cards or GP visit cards.

For further information log on to the HSE self-care website www.undertheweather.ie which provides tips and advice in relation to common winter illnesses, including flu. Also see www.hse.ie/winter

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