Flu Season Reminders from the Clinic
What is the flu?
Influenza (the flu) is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by influenza viruses. There are many different influenza viruses that are constantly changing. They cause illness, hospital stays, and deaths in the United States each year.
How serious is the flu?
Flu illness can vary from mild to severe. While the flu can be serious even in people who are otherwise healthy, it can be especially dangerous for young children and those who have long term health conditions, including asthma (even mild or controlled), neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, chronic lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders, endocrine disorders, kidney, liver, and metabolic disorders, and weakened immune systems.
How does the flu spread?
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get the flu by touching something that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Some people may not have a fever.
How long can a sick person spread the flu to others?
Sick people may be able to infect others one day before getting sick to five to seven days after. People with weakened immune systems might be still contagious past five to seven days.
How can I protect my child against the flu?
Vaccination is recommended for everyone six months and older. It’s especially important that young children and those with long term health conditions get vaccinated. Research shows that vaccinating pregnant women gives some protection to the baby both while the woman is pregnant, and for a few months after the baby is born. A new flu vaccine is made each year to protect against the three flu viruses that research indicates are most likely to cause illness during the next flu season. Vaccines are made using strict safety and production measures. Over the years, millions of flu vaccines have been given in the United States with a very good safety record.
Is there a medicine to treat the flu?
Antiviral drugs can treat flu illness. They can make people feel better and get better sooner and may prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia, which can lead to hospitalization and even death. These drugs are different from antibiotics, but they also need to be prescribed by a doctor. They work best when started during the first two days of illness. These drugs can be given to children and pregnant women.
What are some of the other ways I can protect my child against the flu?
- Get vaccinated.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- If someone in the household is sick, try to keep the sick person in a separate room from others in the household.
- Keep all surfaces clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant.
- Throw tissues and disposable items used by sick persons in the trash.
What can I do if my child gets sick?
Talk to your doctor early if you are worried. If your child is older than five and does not have other health problems, consult your doctor as needed and make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks enough fluids.
What if my child seems very sick?
Call for emergency care or take your child to a doctor right away if your child of any age has any of the warning or emergency signs below:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids (not going to the bathroom or making as much urine as they normally do)
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being irritable
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Has other conditions (like heart or lung disease, diabetes,or asthma) and develops flu symptoms, including a fever and/or cough.
Can my child go to school if he or she is sick?
No. Your child should stay home to rest and to avoid giving the flu to other children or caregivers.
When can my child go back to school after having the flu?
Keep your child home from school for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone. Fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine. A fever is defined as 100°F or higher.