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The Informed Parent

It’s Flu Season

by Lori A. Livingston, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Feb. 24, 2014
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The flu season is upon us. It’s already here. And it’s here to stay for at least a few months. We see a lot of confused parents in our pediatric office, and understandably so. There is so much conflicting information coming from different people and the media in our lives. As parents, you don’t need to know every statistic; you only need to know the basics.

  • Influenza is a virus, so antibiotics will not treat it.
  • Most healthy people will get better without any medical treatment other than rest and drinking plenty of water.
  • This year the predominant strain is H1N1, or the swine flu, which can cause more severe symptoms than other strains. 
  • The symptoms of the flu are fever, cough, sore throat, headache and body aches, and typically lasts at least a week.
  • The stomach flu causes vomiting and diarrhea; this is a different virus, and usually lasts a few days.
  • The flu vaccine can prevent influenza or make it less severe; it does not prevent the stomach flu or other viruses.
  • If you child may have the flu, see your pediatrician within 48 hours since there is an anti-viral medicine called Tamiflu that can make the flu less severe.
  • Having influenza increases the risk of getting pneumonia or other bacterial infections.
  • Young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with a chronic illness (such as asthma, heart problems, diabetes, etc.) is at much higher risk for hospitalization or death from influenza. These people should absolutely get a flu vaccine.
  • The flu shot cannot give you the flu. It can cause a mild reaction with fever or nasal congestion just like any other vaccine.
  • You can also prevent getting the flu with good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, and get enough sleep.
  • If your child has a fever more than a few days or a cough that is getting worse, see your pediatrician as soon as possible.

Most importantly, call your doctor if you aren’t sure what to do and get a flu vaccine if you are pregnant, around young children, or have chronic medical problems.




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