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Happy New Year! We hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season, and have a safe and happy new year. As our kids go back to school, the flu season is definitely here! We hope this post helps you while navigating this respiratory season.

What is the flu? The flu is caused by a virus called influenza. The most common types of flu viruses are influenza A and influenza B. The flu can cause fever, chills, cough, runny nose, sore throat, congestion, body aches, vomiting, headache, and poor appetite. It is commonly caught through respiratory droplets like when someone sneezes into the air, coming in close contact with someone who has the flu, or by touching objects that has the flu virus on it.

What can you do to protect your child and your family? Have your child wash their hands often and especially before they eat or touch their face. Practice with your child sneezing into their elbow rather than their hands. Avoid being around others who are sick. Maintain a healthy lifestyle such as getting good sleep, eating healthy, and exercising. Have your child receive their annual flu shot. It is a great proactive defense against the flu and the vaccine does not cause the flu. Flu shots are available here in office and you can schedule a dedicated vaccine visit to receive it.

What prescriptions are available when your child has the flu? After your child has been diagnosed with the flu, their doctor may offer you a medication such as oseltamivir (a common brand name of this medication is called tamiflu). Oseltamivir is an antiviral medication (not an antibiotic) for the flu that prevents the release of more flu virus from the cells in your body. This medication can be given if symptoms have started within the last 48hrs. If it is given within 48 hours of your child’s symptoms starting, it can reduce symptom duration (the number of days that they feel sick) by 24hours. It can cause some side effects, most commonly nausea and vomiting. Because the flu is a virus and not a bacteria, no antibiotics can be used for the flu unless your child has another infection such as strep throat or an ear infection.

What can you do to help your child feel better at home? Other things that we can do to make your child feel better would be treating the symptoms. It is what you may hear doctors saying is “supportive care.” Having your child drink plenty of fluids (or for babies under 1 year of age, their regular formula or breastmilk) and get plenty of sleep are some of the best things you can do to help your child feel better. For children over 1 year of age, warm fluids like tea or soup are great to loosen up that mucus to help make it easier to remove. Just make sure it’s not too hot in temperature to avoid burns. A cool mist humidifier in the room can also help loosen up secretions, just make sure to clean it often. For babies, suctioning their nose with a bulb suction or nose frida with nasal saline drops is important. Try doing this before feeds and before bedtime. 1 teaspoon of honey can be given to children over the age of 1 year old, and can help soothe a cough that tickles the back of their throat. Children 7 and up who can follow directions can have cough drops if supervised to prevent choking. Some over the counter medicines can help as well. Acetaminophen (commonly known as tylenol) can be used for children 2 months and older, and Ibuprofen (commonly known as motrin and advil) can be used for children 6 months and older. Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help with pain, body aches, and fever. Avoid cough and cold medications for children under 7yrs of age. Never give a child under 18yrs of age any medication that contains “salicylates” (commonly seen in pepto-bismal and aspirin) as this can cause a rare and life-threatening syndrome called Reyes syndrome.

When should you seek medical care? If you have any concerns over your child’s health, you should always contact your healthcare provider. If your child is having trouble breathing, you should seek medical care. For your little ones, signs of problems with breathing would be if they are breathing fast, their nostrils are flaring outward, belly breathing, and if the skin in-between their rib cage or near their neck is pulling inward. If your child is not able to drink fluids or your baby is not taking their formula or breast milk, you should seek medical care. We want to prevent dehydration. Signs of dehydration are dry mouth, crying without tears, or decrease in urination (babies should make 4 or more wet diapers in 24hrs and children that are potty trained should urinate at least every 8hrs). If your child is 2months and younger and has a fever of 100.4, this is a medical emergency and should be seen by a doctor immediately. If your child has a fever above 104.5 or if your child has a fever above 100.4 that lasts for more than 4 days, you should seek medical care.

Any time you have questions or concerns, we are happy to see you for a same day sick visit or answer questions over the phone during our normal business hours (8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday). If you have urgent concerns after business hours, please call our after hours urgent line and our nurse practitioners will help assist you. If you feel your child is having a life threatening emergency, please call 911 or head toward the nearest emergency room.

Have more questions about the flu? Don’t hesitate to call our office at 239-415-1131.