The Flu. This simple, three-letter word is currently striking fear in the hearts of parents everywhere. Anyone who is not currently living under a rock has probably heard the flu has been particularly prominent this year. In fact, the flu is now so widespread across the United States that it is now officially considered an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What are we mere mortals to do in the face of the “dreaded” flu and the never-ending barrage of media coverage on the topic? First, take a deep breath….well, preferably not near anyone who is sick with the flu. The flu has been around for ages, and does cross the “epidemic level” most years. The majority of otherwise healthy children will fight off the flu after a period of a few days to a week, and end up generally unscathed. Lots of TLC and over-the-counter medications to manage the symptoms are often all children need. There is also an antiviral medication, Tamiflu, that has been shown to help stop the flu virus from replicating, often leading to less spreading of the virus among contacts and a shorter duration (1.3 days) of symptoms. One of the downsides, however, is that this medication needs to be started as soon as possible (within 48 hours) to be the most effective. If you are concerned about your child having the flu, and are interested in discussing Tamiflu as a treatment option, make sure to get in ASAP!
So, how do you know if your child is suffering from the common cold or the dreaded flu? Sometimes, we do not know until we check, but usually the flu comes on with some classic symptoms that might help you figure it out. The flu classically starts suddenly. If your child starts watching her favorite movie laughing and smiling, and by the credits has a fever, often over 101 degrees, and looks miserable and weak, we might be dealing with the flu. In addition to the sudden onset and fever, it will classically cause red, watery, glassy eyes (something my Nana, and probably yours, always called “weak eyes.”) Other symptoms include nasal congestion, sneezing, sore throat, cough, as well as some other classic signs like significant body aches and chills. As always, if you aren’t quite sure, it is best we see your child. That is, after all, what we are here for. Furthermore, if your child is also complaining of ear pain, not drinking or urinating, having difficulty breathing, or if the fever lasts longer than five days, they should be seen.
Now, if you are anything like me, or if your schedule has been anything like mine this holiday season, you might not have had time to get the flu vaccine for yourself and/or your children. (No Mommy guilt; it happens to the best of us!) Most importantly, it is NOT TOO LATE! The flu season classically peaks between the months of December and February, with some cases not being reported until April or even May. Translation? If your children have not had their vaccines yet, there is still time to help protect them against the flu! Call the office to schedule a nurse visit, and while there, we can also give vaccines to Mommies and Daddies to help protect the whole family!
Another thing you may have heard on news reports is that the vaccine this year has not been 100 percent effective, and there are some still catching the flu even after vaccination. These cases may be the result of a few things. For instance, the flu vaccine usually takes two weeks to build up the antibodies that allow you to fight off the flu, so if people have been exposed during that time period, their bodies have not had time to build up the immune response (another reason to get that flu vaccine ASAP!) However, a large reason is most likely due to one of the families of the flu virus (technically, one of the genera of the influenza virus — hello, high school biology), known as influenza A, had a strain that mutated after the vaccine was manufactured. The good news? For people who received their vaccines, they are still getting some protection from that family (genera) of the influenza virus. This has been leading to milder and shorter cases of the flu, which anyone who has had the flu can tell you, is a really good thing. Even in light of this, vaccinating everyone eligible is still worth it, and not to mention, still recommended by the powers that be, i.e., the CDC.
So, get those vaccines in if you haven’t done so, and if your little one (or even not-so-little one) happens to come down with the “dreaded” flu, give us a call and we will help get both you and your “bundle of joy” through it!