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It’s flu season! Here’s what you need to know.

November 14, 2014

This post was written by Dr. Tom Ruffin, pedatric resident at Arnold Palmer Hospital

No one plans on their child catching the flu (influenza); however, 20,000 children less than 5 years old are hospitalized with flu-related complications.

Here are some important things you need to know about the flu:

What is the Flu?

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. There are many different strands of the flu that are constantly changing. The flu can be very dangerous, especially for children with chronic medical conditions.

What are the symptoms of the Flu?

Fever, chills, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. As you can see, the flu presents in a variety of different ways! In fact, not everyone even has a fever with the flu.

How does the Flu spread?

The flu spreads mainly by droplets. This means it is spread by coughing, sneezing, or even talking.

How long can someone who is sick spread the Flu?

Typically, those with the flu are contagious one day before their symptoms and up to 5-7 days into their illness. Your child should avoid school, daycare, or camp for at least 24 hours after his or her fever is gone.

How can I prevent my child from getting the flu?

The most important thing to do is to get a flu vaccine for yourself and your child now!
  • Vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older.
  • It is especially important for children with chronic health or lung conditions to get vaccinated.
  • It is important for the caregivers of children under 6 months old to get vaccinated.
  • It is recommended for pregnant mothers to receive the flu vaccine in the 3rd trimester, as this gives some protection to the baby for a few months after they are born.

Can my child still get the flu if they have been vaccinated?

Unfortunately, yes. The flu vaccine changes each year to protect against the three most common flu viruses for that season; however, there are still other less common strands of flu. In addition, it takes up to 2 weeks after the vaccination for your child’s body to create its defense system. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated early.

Is there anything else I can do to protect my child from the Flu?

  • The most important step is that we cover our nose and mouth when we cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands, or, if unable, then use alcohol-based hand rub
  • Stay away from sick people
  • Keeps your hands out of your face

What is this medicine called Tamiflu?

Tamiflu is an antiviral that is available as a prescription through your doctor. In some people, it can make them feel better and prevent serious complications, such as pneumonia. It works best when started within the first 2 days of illness. Not everyone benefits from Tamiflu, and you should consult with your physician about whether this is right your child.

What to do I do if my child gets sick?

Talk to your child’s physician and encourage lots of rest and hydration.

Immediately see a doctor if your child has these symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing, bluish skin discoloration, severe vomiting or diarrhea, not being able to eat or drink, excessive fatigue or irritability, You should also see a doctor if your child has an underlying chronic medical condition.
We are now in the Flu season - keep your kids healthy and get yourself and your family vaccinated today.