What To Do About This Year's Flu?
We are in the middle of Flu season and it is busy in doctors’ offices, hospitals and urgent cares all over town. If you have not gotten the flu vaccine, it’s not too late! You may have heard that this season, a strain of influenza appeared after the vaccine was already made. Despite this news, recent reports estimate that getting vaccinated still reduces a person’s risk of having to go to the doctor because of the flu by 23%. For that reason, it’s still a good idea to vaccinate your family.
Centers for disease control (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine as an important first step in the prevention of influenza for everyone 6 months and older. Remember: The flu shot cannot cause flu illness! If your children don’t like needles, there’s even a nasal spray vaccine available for healthy* children ages 2-8 (assuming the child has no history of reactions or other reasons not to administer that form of the vaccine).
So what is the flu?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can be mild to severe and sometimes can lead to death. The symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. Many other viruses spread these ways too
People infected with flu may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to spread the flu to others before you know you are sick. Avoid close contact with sick people if possible. If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home from work or school until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Can You Treat The Flu?
There are prescription medications called “antiviral drugs” that can be used to treat influenza illness. These medications are effective if used within the first 2 days. They can shorten the time you are sick and lessen the symptoms. Most healthy people who get the flu do not need to be treated by these drugs. However, hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness and people at higher risk for flu complications such as those with asthma or weakened immune system can benefit from the medications.
It’s also important to remember that you shouldn’t go to the emergency room (ER) if you are only mildly ill. Only people who are very sick should go to the ER for care. Warning signs of severe flu in children and infants include difficulty breathing, not drinking enough fluids, not waking up or interacting, extreme irritability, and no tears when crying. For more information, visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu
. If you have concerns about your child and the flu, call you health care provider’s office for advice.