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Expert Insights: Dr. Jim Sears on What Nannies Need to Know About the Flu

October 14, 2012

by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief

Recently I had a chance to chat about the seasonal flu with Dr. Jim Sears, Emmy- nominated co-host of the award-winning talk show The Doctors and board-certified pediatrician. In addition to starring on The Doctors, Dr. Jim shares a California based family practice with his father, Dr. William Sears and younger brother, Dr. Robert Sears.

Here’s a bit of how our conversation went:

eNannySource: Who is most at risk for the flu?

Dr. Jim: Anyone can catch the flu. The more people you’re around the higher your risks of catching the flu are. The flu is a mild illness for some people but for others it can be more severe. These people include young kids, pregnant women and anyone with a suppressed immune system.

eNannySource: What’s the difference between a typical flu and a severe flu?

Dr. Jim: With the typical flu you’d have a fever, not feel well, and have respiratory symptoms and headaches. You may miss a few days of work. With babies, their immune systems don’t work as well and they have a harder time fighting the flu off and are more likely not to eat, to become dehydrated and to experience respiratory issues- which tend to be more severe the younger you are.

eNannySource: You mentioned babies immune systems. Are breastfed babies less likely to catch the flu?

Dr. Jim: Studies actually do show that breastfed babies are less likely to be hospitalized with a respiratory illness. Many breastfeeding moms ask if they should still breastfeed when they have the flu. The answer is yes because nursing moms are producing antibodies that when passed onto their babies will fight against the flu. 

eNannySource: Can nannies help prevent the spread of the flu to their charges? How?

To know how to prevent the spread of the flu it helps to understand how to catch the flu. The flu is always floating around. It’s there when people cough and sneeze. It’s in mucous. If someone coughs on their hands and then they touch a doorknob it’s there. You can’t get sick unless the flu gets into your body, which is usually through your nose and eyes and happens when your rub them.

Hand washing and using hand sanitizer can help prevent the spread of the flu, but keeping your hands away from your face is a big one. When you’re in a crowd don’t rub your eyes and nose and encourage kids not to either. Also, when you cough or sneeze it can get into the air and babies can breathe it in, so you want to be cautious of that too.

eNannySource: How important is the flu shot for nannies?

Dr Jim: It’s pretty important. The younger the baby being cared for is the more important it is that anyone taking care of the child gets the flu shot- especially if the baby has asthma or other chronic medical problems. When you get the flu shot your chances are pretty darn low that you’ll catch it. It’s also important to remember you can be contagious before you get sick, so in that way getting a flu shot can help protect kids too.

eNannySource.com: Some employers require their nannies to have flu shots. What do you think of that?

Dr. Jim: It’s almost like when parents don’t want to get their kids vaccinated. It’s about personal freedom. People have the right to refuse and some people feel strongly about not getting the flu shot. Parents may feel strongly too that their nanny should get it. I think both parents and nannies need to stand up for what they believe.

eNannySource:  What are you 5 best tips for staying flu free this season?

Dr. Jim:  First, boost your immune system. It’s important to understand how diet influences your immune system.  Fish, walnuts, fruits and veggies are immune system boosters.

Second, get your daily exercise. It boots your immune system. Walk the kids to school or go for a walk in the park.  10 to 15 minutes of exercise can make a difference.

Third, avoid excess sugar. Some foods kill immune system- sugar is one of them. Sugar suppresses white blood cells that help fight bacteria. These cells get sluggish after you eat sugar and don’t respond as well. My kids used to ask me when they were younger “Dad can I have some candy?” I would always respond “Is this a good time to be suppressing your immune system?”

Forth, practice good hand washing. It’s always a good idea to wash your hands before meals, after using the bathroom and after being among crowds or a crowded place, like a grocery store.

Fifth, get a flu shot.

eNannySource: Thanks so much for chatting with me Dr. Jim. Is there anything else nannies should know about the flu and how they can help prevent spreading it?

Dr. Jim: While it can be tempting to send the kids to school sick or go to work when you are sick, you have to resist that temptation. You’ll just be making others sick if you do.

Dr. James (Jim) Sears is an Emmy® -nominated co-host of the award-winning talk show The Doctors. Dr. Sears is a board-certified pediatrician who is part of a family practice that he shares with his father, William, and younger brother, Robert, located in Capistrano Beach, California. Dr. Sears has co-authored several books, including The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood, the best seller The Baby Book and the newly released The Omega-3 Effect: Everything You Need to Know About the Supernutrient for Living Longer, Happier, and Healthier. Dr. Sears frequently travels the country speaking about the importance of good family nutrition.


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