The flu often starts with chills, fever, sore throat, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, and body aches. A person that gets the flu will feel ill and weak. People often refer to vomiting and diarrhea as the “stomach flu,” but that is a different illness, not caused by the influenza virus. With influenza people may experience vomiting – but the seasonal flu is primarily a respiratory illness.
Approximately four million children get the flu each year. Because the flu virus changes from year-to-year, so does the vaccine. The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year. There are two options available for most people – an intranasal spray and the flu shot.
The spray is available for healthy people ages 2 through 49 with no history of asthma and who are not pregnant. The flu shot is available for everyone ages 6 months and older. If your child is younger than 6 months old, all household members should be vaccinated to reduce your baby’s risk of exposure. All of the flu vaccines are processed with eggs; if your child has an egg allergy, be sure to tell your health care provider.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it’s especially important that the following groups get vaccinated:
1. Pregnant women;
2. Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old;
3. People 50 years of age and older;
4. People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions;
5.People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;
6. People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including health care workers, home-care workers and caregivers of children less than 6 months of age.
For children with the flu, keep them hydrated, give a non-aspirin fever-reducer such as Tylenol or Motrin, and contact your health provider. There are medicines available that can shorten the duration and severity of the flu if given within 48 hours of the onset of the symptoms. The best “treatment” is to prevent the illness by getting vaccinated.
– Gwen Lundgren, PA-C, is a physician assistant with Montrose Pediatric Associates