(Cottage Health / iStock photo)

Dr. Jenna Holmen, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Grotenhuis Pediatric Clinics in Cottage Children’s Medical Center, provides fall advice regarding vaccines and fevers:

With fall here, COVID-19 cases continuing and flu season upon us, here are some tips to help keep you and your children safe.

COVID-19 Vaccines for Children

Many parents are asking how to protect their children against COVID-19. One of the best ways to protect against COVID-19 — and many other infections — is by being vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccines are approved for children 6 months of age and older, and are highly effective in preventing hospitalization and severe illness related to COVID-19.

Multiple studies have shown that vaccines also help prevent multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a condition in which different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs and kidneys. Vaccines may also reduce the incidence of long COVID.

Flu Season Is Here

In addition to COVID-19 vaccines, it is important to remember to vaccinate your child against the flu and to stay up to date on other routine immunizations. We are seeing a rise in vaccine-preventable illnesses, such as polio, likely due in part to children falling behind on routine vaccinations during the coronavirus pandemic.

As for the flu, Australia experienced a particularly bad flu season. Its experience is generally a predictor of what we can expect with flu in the United States, so it is particularly important to make sure your child receives the flu vaccine this year.

It is also important to always remember the basics like good handwashing (with soap for at least 15-20 seconds), which helps protect against many different illnesses.

If your child is sick, they should stay home while they have symptoms. If they test positive for COVID-19, they need to stay home for at least five days. After that, they may return to school if they have had no fever and no other symptoms for 24 hours.

If Your Child Has a Fever

A fever is the body’s natural response to an infection. If your child has a fever, consider getting them tested for COVID-19.

Children do not necessarily need to see a doctor for a mild fever unless they have additional symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, dehydration (urinating less than once every eight hours), a stiff neck or bad headache, or any time they look very ill or aren’t acting like they normally do.

A child with a fever lasting more than five days should be evaluated by a physician. After hours, you can also access virtual care or urgent care for an assessment when the situation is not an emergency.

Call 9-1-1 if you think your child is experiencing a life-threatening emergency.

Also, any child under 2 months of age with a fever should see a doctor right away, as it may be a sign of a more severe illness even without other symptoms.