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The Informed Parent

Flu Season is Coming! Prevention and Treatment For Your Family

by Lori A. Livingston, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Dec. 29, 2008

Influenza, or the “flu” is a winter virus best avoided. Every year the flu causes millions of lost days of school and work, thousands of hospitalizations, and hundreds of deaths. Like other viruses, such as those that cause the common cold, the flu is passed from person to person by respiratory droplets…coughing, sneezing, and runny noses.

The BEST way to avoid the flu is by washing your hands frequently. Try not to touch your face, and steer clear of sick friends and family if possible. This is often easier said than done, especially if you have young kids at home. Perhaps even more important is protecting your family with the flu vaccine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends a yearly flu shot for all children ages 6 months to 18 years. In addition, household members who have contact with young children should be vaccinated, especially if there is an infant under 6 months at home since the baby is too young for the shot.  Any children with high risk conditions, such as heart disease, asthma, or immunosuppressant, and their family members should get the flu vaccine. Pregnant women, healthcare professionals, and elderly people should also get it. Why do all these people NEED the flu shot? Because they are at MUCH higher risk for complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, severe dehydration, or even death.

Flu season often continues well into March or even longer, so it is not too late to vaccinate and protect your family. If you do get the flu this season, despite your best efforts, you may be having any or all of these symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Body Aches
  • Dry Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sore Throat

What can you do to feel better? First of all, see your doctor! If you have the flu and it has been less that two days, you may be able to take Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) which is an anti-viral mediation that can shorten the duration and severity of your illness. Otherwise, only time will cure the flu. Antibiotics do not work.

You can help your child feel more comfortable by:

  • Encouraging rest
  • Drink water frequently to stay hydrated
  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin) for fever and pain
  • NEVER give aspirin. It can cause a deadly reaction with the flu.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier.

Your doctor may have other suggestions, such as cough or cold medicine if your child is over four years old, or may start an antibiotic if a complication like pneumonia develops.

Have a Happy Holiday and Don’t Forget to Get Your Flu Shot!

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