Flu season is upon us! Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory illness that typically circulates in the winter months each year (approximately November – March). The flu can cause mild to severe illness and results in thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year. Here are some common questions about the flu and what your best bet to protect you and your family! (Hint: prevention is key!)
What is the best protection against the flu?
Flu shot! The best protection against the flu is receiving a flu vaccine (flu shot) each year! The flu shot is recommended for all people six months of age and older. For children eight and under, the first time they receive a flu shot they will need two doses, four weeks apart. Each year, the formulation of the flu vaccines is altered to best fight the predicted virus circulating for that given year. Although the match may not always be 100%, receiving a flu vaccine has proven to decrease severity and duration of the flu.
The flu is passed from tiny droplets shared by coughing, sneezing, talking, and touching contaminated objects. Hand washing, covering your cough or sneeze, and staying home if you’re sick are the best ways to prevent the spread of the flu.
But wait! Won’t the flu shot give you the flu? No. The flu shot works to make your body recognize the flu and prevent illness from flu. Some people may experience low-grade fever or pain at the injection site after any vaccine, but this is not the flu.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
The flu has a sudden onset of the following symptoms:
- Fever (typically greater than 101F)
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Occasionally vomiting and diarrhea
How long does the flu last?
The flu typically lasts 5-7 days, though a cough can persist for several weeks after the initial infection.
What is the treatment for the flu?
The best treatment for flu is time, rest, and lots of fluids! Fever reducers can also be used (acetaminophen, ibuprofen) depending on your child’s age (always check with your health provider if you have questions about dosing!). There are also certain medications that may be given to help shorten the duration of flu symptoms- discuss these with your health provider. Cough and cold medicines are not safe for children under the age of 4, and should only be used under direction of your healthcare provider for older children. These products have not been proven to be effective and can be harmful to children. However, humidity from the shower, a cool mist humidifier, or nasal saline (and suction!!) are great tools for symptom relief.
When do I need to seek medical attention for the flu?
The flu can be diagnosed by clinical exam or laboratory testing.
You should seek immediate treatment if you see the following:
- Difficulty breathing- shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Blue or purplish discoloration of skin
- Signs of dehydration- little or no urine production/wet diapers; no tears when crying; dry, cracked lips
- Difficult to wake up/lethargic
- Extreme irritability- a child or infant who is difficult to console or does not want to be held
- Fever with a rash
How do you stop the spread of germs?
- Stay home if you are sick and keep your child home if they are sick! The best practice is to avoid others until 24 hours fever free (less than 100.4F) without any fever reducing medications
- Avoid contact with sick people
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water!
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
At Children’s Urgent Care it is our priority to provide top quality care and exceptional customer service. Our pediatric trained providers work to make sure your little ones are happy and healthy every day.
Allison Clark Young is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner with experience in pediatric critical and primary care. Originally from Kentucky, she is a community health advocate and has called Chicago home for the last ten years. She graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BSN and University of Illinois Chicago with a MSN. She lives on the northwest side of Chicago with her husband Matt, two-year-old Silas, and ten year old dachshund pup, Tobey.
If your little one is experiencing cold and flu like symptoms visit our website to find a Children’s Urgent Care clinic near you. Our pediatric trained staff provides immediate care seven days a week, no appointments necessary.