Kathy Gates, RN (Health Consultant, Region 5 and 6) Today's children can be healthier than ever, thanks to vaccines. Following the CDC-recommended immunization schedule will protect a child from 14 infectious diseases in the first two years of life. Are you aware that as a child care professional, you can be a great promoter of immunizations? You are a trusted source parents rely on for information regarding the care of their children. This information can and should include CDC-recommended guidelines for immunizations. One immunization that is often overlooked in discussions between parents and staff is the influenza vaccine. Now is the time to have that discussion! Flu season is here, and our goal is to keep our child care facilities as free of flu as possible. The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year. Good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can also help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like influenza. Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization or even death. The influenza vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and flu-related death in children. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the influenza vaccine every season with only rare exceptions. Talk with your health care provider if you have concerns or questions. Children younger than 6 months old are too young to be vaccinated and at greater risk of developing serious flu-related complications. It’s important for child care professionals to help protect the fragile infants in their care. Directors should lead by example and get an influenza vaccine, then spread the word among staff and parents about the benefits of receiving the vaccine in a timely manner. We want to prevent influenza cases in our facilities across the state. The CDC website provides excellent information for child care providers. There are many downloadable resources, including posters that can be displayed around your facility. These resources are available in English and Spanish. Remember to contact your regional IdahoSTARS Child Care Health Consultant if you would like assistance with preventing influenza and the spread of influenza in your facility. You can contact your regional Child Care Resource Center by calling the Idaho CareLine at 211.