According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. is in its fifth week of elevated flu activity, and flu season is expected to peak this month, which is earlier than usual. The CDC estimates 2.6 million people have had the flu this season, and 23,000 have been hospitalized for it. Flu season is going strong, so I wanted to answer some frequently asked questions I get at my practice this time of year. Hopefully, this will equip you with enough knowledge to keep your family as well as possible.
What are the common symptoms of the flu?
Flu starts out looking like a regular cold but quickly moves into a more serious illness. Symptoms include muscle aches, cough, fever, and an overall feeling of malaise. Difficulty breathing, headache, and profound fatigue are also symptoms of the flu.
Observe your child’s cold symptoms closely. If you notice any of the above symptoms in addition to cold symptoms, your child could have the flu.
What do I do if I suspect my child has the flu?
If you suspect that your child has the flu, take her to your pediatrician. If caught quickly, Tamiflu can shorten the course considerably and make your child feel better.
You can also control your child’s fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Many kids find better muscle pain relief with ibuprofen. Hot liquids, a lukewarm bath, and rest will help ease symptoms. Influenza is contagious, so make sure to tell your child’s teachers and other parents that your child has it.
How can I prevent the flu?
As I said, influenza is incredibly contagious, so making sure your child washes his hands, doesn’t share drinks or utensils, and doesn’t spend time with friends who are sick are crucial to flu prevention.
As far as preventative medicine, make sure everyone in the family has their flu shot. The CDC recommends everyone six months of age and older get the flu vaccine. It’s not too late to get vaccinated even though flu season is well underway. To find your local clinic or pharmacy administering the flu vaccine, visit VaccineFinder.org.
You can also try more natural preventative methods such as Vitamin C or echinacea. While these aren’t proven, I have known them to be helpful in some cases.
Don’t let the flue ruin your holiday. Tell your kids to wash their hands often, monitor cold symptoms, and, if you haven’t already, get the entire family vaccinated. The pain and the hassle is worth it to have everyone still smiling and not sick in bed on Christmas.
Get the latest updates on this year’s flu season at the CDC website here, where they update stats and information weekly.