Flu: A Parent's Prevention Guide to Influenza (Flu)
Every year the flu season is unpredictable with uncontrollable timing, severity and length which typically starts in October and lasts until May. Children and adults are affected and in the United States, seasonal flu commonly peaks between December and February. What do parents need to know compared to other years?
Flu Shots for Children
The best prevention is to get the flu vaccine every year which can significantly reduce the chances of getting the virus. Getting a vaccine annually will protect against the common flu virus that season.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months and older receive a vaccination in early fall or as soon as it is available.
- Vaccination throughout the flu season, even in January or later, is still beneficial.
flu shot cannot cause flu illness. Most common side effects are soreness and tenderness where the shot was given.
Flu Prevention Tips
- The best defense is to take the annual flu vaccination which takes about two weeks for protection to set in. Encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated – especially for people at a higher risk for serious complications.
- Wash hands frequently, especially after sneezing, coughing, wiping the nose, touching doorknobs, going to the bathroom or leaving places such as your pediatrician's office and daycare center. Use hand sanitizers when soap and water are not available.
- Encourage children to cover their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing to decrease the number of germs in the air.
- Keep the air in your home clean by using a HEPA filter, a device that can remove 99 percent of pollen, dust, dander and bacteria from the air.
- Sanitize kitchen sponges and dishcloths, where the greatest concentration of germs can be found. Washing these items in the washing machine or dishwasher does not do enough to kill all the bacteria. Instead, wet the item and heat it in the microwave for two minutes.
- Children with the flu should stay away from public places, but once a child's fever is gone and energy level is up, he or she can return to daycare or school.
How does Influenza Spread?
The flu is both airborne and transferred through contact. If an infected individual coughs, sneezes or touches something, anyone nearby is at risk of inhaling germs or contracting the virus by touching an infected surface.
Children who attend daycare or school are particularly susceptible to the flu. Influenza is most contagious during the first 24 to 36 hours of contracting the virus, but symptoms indicating that a child has the flu usually do not appear for one to seven days.
When to Call Your Doctor
If complications occur, such as sinus pain or pressure, earache or a fever that lasts longer than three days, call your child's physician during office hours. If your child develops a very high fever, has a seizure, is having difficulty breathing or starts to act very sick, call your physician immediately.
Generally the flu season is going to be in about January or February, though every now and again we can have some early cases in November or December. Generally the flu compared to an average cold is worse. It is higher fevers. The fevers can last longer, up to three to five days. You tend to have body aches, everything hurts more. Your chest hurts more, the cough is worse. It's sort of a normal cold on steroids, it's just a lot worse than a normal cold.
What is the treatment for the flu?
The flu is generally treated with supportive care meaning rest, fluids, ibuprofen and you can take it easy. There is a medicine for the flu called Tamiflu. We don't always recommend it for every child and if you do want to use the Tamiflu medicine, it does have to be started up to 48 hours of the symptoms starting. If your child does have flulike symptoms and you are interested in that medicine that is something to be discussing with your pediatrician.
How important is the flu vaccine?
Vaccinating against the flu is important because it is really the only way to prevent getting the flu in the flu season. So we recommend flu vaccine for all children zero to eighteen years of age. It's going to be most important for any kids with immune deficiencies, chronic diseases, asthma and children two years and younger. In general we will start looking at vaccinating between September and November is probably the best time.
Washing your hands during flu season, getting a good night's rest at night, good nutrition is always a good bet, staying away from others who are sick at that time. I think if you do the above mentioned things you have a good chance of staying healthy this winter.