For those of you who have put off getting your flu vaccine for yourself or your children, take a look at the map above.
You see Louisiana down there in that lovely, foreboding shade of brown? That indicates that we are living in one of two states with widespread flu activity (the highest level of activity) as of November 22, 2014. I can certainly vouch for this based on my experience in the office over the past 2 weeks. This is the earliest in a flu season that I have seen so many positive cases of influenza. The great majority of kids that I have diagnosed with the flu over the past few weeks have not received the flu vaccine. Looking at flu statistics collected by the Center for Disease Control, we are seeing widespread flu activity in our state almost one month earlier than last year. Something else to grab your attention…there have already been 5 pediatrics deaths in the US attributed to influenza this flu season. Unfortunately, it is almost a guarantee that there will be more before influenza is done with us for the season.
So what if your child does get diagnosed with the flu? Since the flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics do nothing to help with flu symptoms. In some cases, an anti-viral medication called Tamiflu can be prescribed. This medication must be started within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms (mainly fever) to be of any benefit. Tamiflu will not make the flu go away immediately, but studies have shown that it decreases the duration of symptoms by about 1-2 days. The biggest side effect of Tamiflu is upset tummy and nausea, which for some, can be worse than the flu symptoms themselves. The mainstay of treatment for flu is drinking lots of liquids, rest, and using ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help keep fevers down (the fever itself is not typically harmful to children, but when temperatures are elevated, kiddos are less likely to want to drink and keep themselves well hydrated).
If your children are like mine - in daycare and sharing germs - you know that winter months bring snot, congestion, and coughing. If these symptoms seem to be causing more than just a permanent wet spot on your sleeve from wiping away boogers or if kiddos start running fever, make sure to bring them in to the pediatrician for evaluation. Finally, my two biggest recommendations this winter season to prevent colds and flu:
- Get your flu shot!
- Invest in a big bottle of hand sanitizer (and use it liberally)!