Seasonal flu vaccine now available
02-03-2009 (Dayton, OH) -
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year in the United States more than 200,000 people, on average, are hospitalized from flu complications. Twenty thousand of those hospitalized are children younger than 5 years old.
In southwest Ohio peak flu season is November through April.
The pediatric experts at Dayton Children's provide the following accurate, up-to-date information on both H1N1 and the seasonal flu.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of the seasonal flu and H1N1 include:
- Rapid onset of fever
- Body aches
- Chills and fatigue
- Sometime vomiting and diarrhea
Young children may not have typical symptoms, but may have trouble breathing or not be as active as usual. Children younger than 5 years are more likely to have serious illness than older children. Flu infections can be severe in children with a chronic medical condition.
Is it the flu or the common cold?
Knowing the difference between the flu and a cold is sometimes difficult. The following guidelines may help:
- The flu: high fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, loss of appetite, cough (sometimes severe), exhaustion, loss of appetite and sore throat
- The cold: low fever if any, runny nose, little coughing; child's appetite and energy level are usually not affected.
The "stomach flu" is not the flu. You may hear people use "stomach flu" to describe a gastrointestinal illness with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms can be caused by other viruses, bacteria or even parasites. The flu or influenza is a respiratory illness and not a stomach or intestinal illness.
Who should be vaccinated for seasonal flu?
Sherman Alter, director of infectious disease at Dayton Children's, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend all children who are 6 months to 18 years old, with an emphasis on vaccinating those aged 6 to 59 months.
"It is very important to vaccinate children with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and immunologic abnormalities as well as parents and grandparents help prevent them from passing the flu to their children." says Dr. Alter
The seasonal flu vaccine is available now. Check with your pediatrician, family doctor to determine if the flu vaccine is appropriate for you and your child.
Children younger than 6 months cannot receive the flu vaccination. Those in close contact with children younger than 6 months of age should be vaccinated. This includes older children and adolescents, child care providers, household members, etc.
How is the flu spread?
Seasonal flu and H1N1 s is spread person to person by direct contact, through the air or by a person with the flu contaminating objects with the virus. A respiratory illness normally causes the flu or influenza. The virus is spread by coughing, sharing of personal items and contamination of the hands. It is normally spread within the first several days of the illness.
Whenever children are together and in close contact, their risk of getting sick increases. Practicing good hygiene will decrease a child's chances of getting sick.
"Hand washing is one of the best ways to keep from getting sick or spreading illness," says Hila Collins, RN, infectious disease nurse clinician at Dayton Children's.
How is the flu prevented?
Prevention and treatment is the same for both H1N1 and the seasonal flu. Fortunately, the things you can do to prevent getting or spreading the flu are easy, everyday activities.
Here are six tips for flu prevention:
- Wash hands often. Use soap and water for 15-20 seconds—about as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are OK if soap and water are not available.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If children don't have a tissue, teach them to cough or sneeze into their shirtsleeve.
- Keep sick children at home including out of school or day care until they are better—usually seven days after the illness starts.
- Teach children to stay at least six feet away from people who are sick. Avoid crowds and public places.
- Teach children not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Eat healthy and find healthy ways to deal with stress and anxiety.
Even if you follow all the precautions, a child may still come down with the flu. Dr. Alter says the best way to treat children who have the flu is to make sure they get extra rest, drink plenty of fluids and eat light, easy-to-digest foods.
How do you treat the flu?
Go to your pediatrician, family doctor or urgent care if you have any concerns about the flu. Children typically run a mild fever between 100 and 102 degrees. Lots of rest and fluids is the best treatment. Keep your children home from school and day care at least 24 hours after they have not had a fever to reduce the spread of infection.
Parents can give children an acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the fever and aches, but should not give their children aspirin. In some cases, it is normal for the flu to last a week or longer.
In October 2008, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association announced that children younger than 4 years old should not be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) cold and flu medicines.
Stacy Roehrs, a clinical pharmacist at Dayton Children's says there are other ways to treat cough and cold symptoms in children younger than 4.
"If an infant is eating and sleeping happily, there is no need to treat a stuffy nose with over-the-counter medications."
"Coughing helps clear the lungs of germs, so we generally discourage the use of cough medicines unless the cough is keeping the child awake at night. In that case, the child's doctor or pharmacist can recommend a nighttime dose."
In severe cases of the flu, antiviral medications can be used to help combat illness, shorten the course of and diminish the severity of the illness.
Parents should pay close attention to children younger than 2 years old because they have smaller airways and cannot handle illness as well as older children or adults would. Parents should contact a pediatrician if children have any serious symptoms.
When is it an emergency?
There is no need to go to the emergency department for the flu unless your child has a preexisting condition or has any of the following symptoms:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish or gray skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting (not responding to your voice or making eye contact)
- Being so irritable (cranky) that he or she does not want to be held
- Not urinating (peeing) or no tears when crying
- Symptoms improve, but soon return with worse cough and fever
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/flu or call Dayton Children's flu hotline at 937-641-H1N1 (4161).
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