(BPT) - For grandparents, giving is quite possibly the best part of the holiday season. When you gather with your kids and grandkids this holiday season it's wonderful to share your homemade cookies and heartfelt gifts, but two things no one in your family should ever give to a loved one are influenza (flu) or whooping cough.
Most people have heard of the flu and understand how contagious it may be. However, many people might not know how serious it can be, particularly for young children and older adults who are at high risk for severe complications. In fact, each year the flu causes an average of 200,000 hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths. Pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough, may not be as well-known as the flu; however, it is also a serious and highly contagious disease that affects the respiratory tract. It can cause severe coughing fits that can last up to 10 weeks or more, and it spreads from person to person much like the cold and flu viruses - through coughing and sneezing. People of all ages can get whooping cough, but the disease is especially dangerous for infants and young children to whom it can cause severe and even life-threatening complications.
Sadly, about half of children under 1 year old who get whooping cough end up in the hospital and approximately 1 out of 100 infants hospitalized for whooping cough will die. Because the disease may be milder in adolescents and adults, many people may not realize they actually have whooping cough, and accidentally spread it to others. In fact, babies are most likely to catch whooping cough from a family member. One recent study of infants with whooping cough showed that approximately 85 percent of babies got the disease from a member of their immediate or extended family, when a source could be identified.
A simple solution to help keep your family healthy
No one likes to be sick during the holiday season, but thanks to the extra travel and large family get-togethers, someone always seems to fall ill. As a grandparent, you may take the normal precautions, such as frequently washing your hands and coughing and sneezing into a tissue, but these are not enough to stop the spread of the flu and whooping cough. Fortunately, there is something you can do to help prevent these diseases. Talk to your healthcare provider about what vaccines you need to help keep yourself and your family members healthy.
Getting the word out
Despite the seriousness of both flu and whooping cough, the number of adults who get vaccinated against these diseases remains alarmingly low. While the CDC recommends everyone, especially those around babies get vaccinated against whooping cough, only 14 percent of adults 19 years and older, and 26 percent of adults living with an infant have had the recommended Tdap vaccination, and only 43.6 percent of adults were vaccinated against the flu last season.
'Grandparents are such an important part of their grandchildren's lives,' says Amy Pisani, Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Every Child By Two. 'That's why it's important that they speak to their healthcare providers about getting vaccinated against the flu and whooping cough. We want every grandparent to be able to play a happy, healthy, helpful role in their grandchildren's development, for many years to come.'
To help raise awareness about the importance of timely vaccination for people of all ages, Every Child By Two is launching the Vaccinate Your Family program. The program includes a new website for the public - VaccinateYourFamily.org - and a number of new resources including the 'Grandparents Toolkit.' The toolkit includes a number of materials including tips on how to soothe a fussy baby, ideas for the perfect baby shower, a guide to discussing whooping cough with your healthcare provider, and much more.
To learn more about influenza and whooping cough, and how you can help keep yourself and your family safe through vaccination, visit the Vaccinate Your Family web site and download the free toolkit.