Did you know the flu is responsible for thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year? Though factors like start date, strain, severity and effectiveness of the vaccine are left primarily up to chance, one thing is certain…The flu is inevitable (nowadays, you can even track the spread online via Google flu trends)! With the Flu season in full swing, here are five questions most parents are probably asking:1. What is the best way to avoid contracting the flu? According to Linda Meloy MD, general pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR), vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your children. Vaccination is especially important for children, who are more susceptible to the illness due to less immunity from prior exposure, smaller airways and close contact with other children. Children can receive the vaccine as young as 6-months-old. The first time children receive the vaccine, they’ll need two doses one month apart in order to develop their immunity. After that, one vaccine every flu season is important, as the contents change each year to protect from newly developing strains.2. How do I protect a newborn from the flu?Though newborns cannot receive the vaccine, they are especially susceptible and most severely affected. To protect your bundle of joy, all members of the family who might have contact with the infant should be immunized. Breastfeeding is also very important, as it passes some of the mother’s antibodies to the newborn, offering them more protection. While some parents may be skeptical of childhood immunization, Dr. Meloy says the benefits outweigh the risks, “The flu vaccine is composed of the dead virus, so while a slight reaction can occur in a small number of people, it is extremely minor compared to the severity of the symptoms caused by the actual flu.”3. How can I help keep my school age children healthy during flu season?A major method of flu prevention is avoiding folks who are sick! This can be particularly difficult when children are in school or daycare. It’s extremely important to teach children to wash their hands frequently and avoid putting their fingers in their mouth. Teach children to avoid spreading gems by covering their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, and properly disposing of tissues.4. What are some flu symptoms I should watch out for in my child?If your little one has a fever, runny nose, sore throat, coughing or muscle pain, keep them home from school (for everyone’s safety!) and contact your pediatrician immediately, as a child’s symptoms can worsen quickly.5. How is the flu diagnosed and treated in children?A simple nose swab can confirm a flu diagnosis and your doctor can prescribe Thamiflu, the only treatment for the flu. While Thamiflu covers both types A and B of the virus, it must be administered within the first 24-48 hours of infection to be effective. If your child is dehydrated, wheezing or having trouble breathing, it may be time to head to CHoR’s pediatric emergency room, before symptoms become serious. Does your child have asthma or pulmonary disease? Take extra caution when symptoms arise as the flu can be very dangerous for them.As much as we try to protect our children, sometimes they are going to get sick. When your child is sick what’s your special way of making them feel better? Whether it’s homemade soup or a special blanket, share with us in the comments!