What is Influenza?
Influenza, or the flu, is a seasonal and very common illness. Each year the influenza virus evolves, making it difficult to prevent long-term. Therefore, it is recommended that you and your child get a flu vaccine each year during flu season near the beginning of fall.
Even though the symptoms are similar to the common cold, they can become severe enough to lead to other illnesses and even cause death. On average 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to the flu, and nearly 140 pediatric deaths are related to it.
Tips for Preventing the Flu
There are a number of measures that the CDC recommends that you and your child should take to avoid getting and spreading the flu. These include:
- Avoid close contact. Especially contact with those who are sick. When you are sick you should also avoid contact with others.
- Stay home when you are sick. Not only will this help prevent the spread of germs, but it will ensure that you don’t over-exert yourself if you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose. Sneezing and coughing are the easiest ways for viruses to spread. Cover your mouth if you are sick.
- Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands often, not just when you use the restroom. You pick up a lot of germs on your hands throughout the day, and if you’re out in public during flu season, there’s a good chance you’ll pick up the flu.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Even if you keep your hands clean, viruses easily enter the body through the orifices on your face.
- Practice good health habits. Make sure to disinfect surfaces that are touched a lot. For example, wipe down a shopping cart handle with a wipe before using. Additionally, make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat nutritious food and drink a lot of fluids.
Make sure you teach these good habits to your child so when they are not by your side, they will help prevent the flu from spreading.
Why Your Yearly Flu Shot Is so Important
The flu season can start in October and last until May, but the bulk of flu cases happen between December through February. It is important to stay up-to-date in your area, as flu outbreaks happen at a local level. Call your primary care physician or pediatrician and ask when the peak flu season is in your area.
Make sure to schedule an appointment to get a flu shot as soon as the vaccination becomes available. You can get a flu shot at your doctor’s/pediatrician’s office, most pharmacies and even school health centers. The typical flu vaccine protects against what research indicates will be the most common viruses during the season, specifically Influenza A virus (H1N1 and H3N2) and a strand of Influenza B virus. Therefore, even if you get the vaccine, you may still get the flu virus, but a flu shot is the best preventative measure you can take.
How to Treat the Flu
Luckily, the flu for the most part is self-treatable. Eventually it with pass with plenty of rest, drinking a lot of fluids and medication. Your body will fight the infection on its own.
Typically, a pediatrician will prescribe you or your child Tamiflu, Relenza, or Peramivir injection if diagnosed with the flu. Call your pediatrician at Cobb Pediatrics for questions about OTC medication to relieve flu symptoms.
Latest Updates to Flu Shot Recommendations
In recent years the CDC has slightly changed their approach to the influenza vaccine and how it should be administered, including:
- Only injectable flu shots are recommended for use.
- Flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses.
- New vaccines are likely to be developed in coming years as improvements are constantly being made.
- The recommendations for vaccination of people with egg allergies have changed.