Children's Flu Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

FLU WARNING SIGNS VS. COMMON COLD,  SHOT VS. MIST FOR KIDS

STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE 

  DR. ALANA A. KENNEDY-NASSER
  Pediatrician, VIPediatRx


Editor's Note: Most flu illnesses in Texas and across the United States occur in the months of December, January and February. The Texas Department of State Health Services has recorded many cases of influenza in the Houston area this 2014-2015 season. Dr. Kennedy-Nasser has four children ranging in age from 7 to 22 years old - this is her advice to other parents.     

ParentsPost:  What are flu symptoms that parents should watch out for? How can parents determine a child is not just having another cold?  

 

DR. KENNEDY-NASSER:  The severity of influenza can vary from person to person, from causing mild cold-like symptoms to severe infection, which could lead to hospitalization or death. The most common symptoms are fever, chills, body aches, sore throat, runny nose, cough, headache, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea, especially in young children under the age of 2. 

 

ParentsPost:  What is your advice to parents if a child is exhibiting the symptoms? When is it necessary to go to the doctor or the Emergency Room?  

 

DR. KENNEDY-NASSER:  Any time a child has a high fever, he or she should be seen by a pediatrician, urgent care or ER. My rule of thumb as a pediatrician and a parent is "moms always know best." If your child has had fever for more than 2 days or has a constellation of symptoms, it is best to be checked for influenza to aid in early diagnosis and treatment. 

 

ParentsPost:  Is there a test that identifies the flu? 

 

DR. KENNEDY-NASSER:  Rapid flu tests are available, and a quick diagnosis can be made. If caught soon enough, antiviral medicines can lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of illness.

  

ParentsPost:  How do you take care of a child or adult who has the flu?  

 

DR. KENNEDY-NASSER:  Other than antiviral medicines, the best home management of influenza is supportive care, with plenty of rest, fluids, pain relief and sleep. Like most viruses, influenza usually only lasts approximately 7 days.

 

ParentsPost:  When children have the flu, what treatments or medications are used and why?

 

DR. KENNEDY-NASSER:  If a diagnosis of flu is made within the first 48 hours, antiviral medicines are given typically twice daily for 5 days. Oseltamivir is the most common antiviral used as it covers both Influenza A and B. This medication can also be used to prevent spread among family members by taking once daily for 7 days. 

 

ParentsPost:  How can you prevent the flu? 

 

DR. KENNEDY-NASSER:  The incubation period for influenza is around two days and infected individuals are contagious for around seven days. The infection is usually spread via coughing or sneezing (respiratory droplets) or touching contaminated surfaces. Handwashing and avoiding sick contacts is the best prevention for most viruses. However, every year the Centers for Disease Control assists in creating a vaccine to cover the general population from mass outbreaks of flu. 

 

ParentsPost:  Describe the flu shots and flu mists that are available. How long do they protect patients?

 

DR. KENNEDY-NASSER:  Vaccination is recommended for everyone, but particularly for children ages 6 months to 5 years or those with chronic illness or a weak immune system as they are most susceptible to severe infection or death. Last year, 149 children in the US died from this virus, including relatively healthy children. There are 2 formulations of the flu vaccine - either injection (inactivated virus) or intranasal (live virus). Since the intranasal (Flu Mist) is formulated from a live virus, it is only recommended in healthy persons aged 2 to 49 years. Both are effective, but live viruses can be harmful in persons with a weak immune system. A healthy person's immunity to flu can wane over time and it is possible to get the flu despite the vaccine (either for declining immunity or a non-covered flu strain). A flu shot is your best chance of protection against this virus and the risks/benefits weigh in favor of vaccination.

 

ParentsPost:  When do you advise your patients to get the flu shots?

 

DR. KENNEDY-NASSER:  As soon as possible! Supplies are limited and you don't want to miss out. Many Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations are ruined by the flu, but more importantly, we want to prevent illness in as many children and adults as possible!





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