LeBonheur physician shares flu advice
Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2011 12:23 pm
Memphis – It’s time for parents to arm themselves with flu information. To make that easier, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Keith English, interim department chair for the University of Tennessee Department of Pediatrics and the chief of Infectious Disease at Le Bonheur, to answer some common questions about seasonal flu.
What is the flu?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. The seasonal flu typically runs from late fall through mid-winter, and symptoms usually hit hard and fast. Once symptoms occur, the fever and body aches typically last anywhere from three to seven days.
Is there a vaccine available?
Flu vaccine is an important way to reduce your child’s risk of developing influenza, and each year the vaccine protects against three different flu viruses. All people ages 6 months of age and older should receive the influenza immunization this year unless they have a rare medical contra-indication such as allergy to chicken eggs or a history of allergic or severe adverse reaction to flu vaccine in previous years. Also note that individuals with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome should consult with their physician regarding whether or not to receive the influenza vaccine.
How many doses of the vaccine
will my child need?
This depends on the age of the child and whether the child received flu vaccines last year.
Children 9 years of age and older need only one dose. Children 6 months to 8 years of age will either need one or two doses, depending on whether or not they received flu vaccines in previous years. Your pediatrician will be able to help you determine whether your child needs one or two doses of the flu vaccine this year.
Should my child receive the shot (injection) form or the nasal spray form of the flu vaccine?
In general, healthy children and adults ages 2-49 years of age may receive either the injection or the aerosolized (nasal spray) version of the vaccine. Children ages 6 months to 2 years (and adults 50 years of age or older) should receive the injectable vaccine, as should children and adults with underlying medical conditions.
What are the flu symptoms?
Flu symptoms include:
• Fever (usually high, more than 101.5 or 102°F)
• Extreme tiredness
• Dry cough
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle aches
• Lack of appetite
• Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults
When do I need to seek medical care for my child if I think he or she has the flu?
If you suspect your child has influenza, call your pediatrician. Le Bonheur agrees with the Tennessee Department of Health that, “in the majority of cases, testing is unnecessary” and that “initiation of treatment should be based on clinical presentation and should not be delayed for a confirmatory test.”
There are several anti-viral medications that can be prescribed by your doctor, but these medications are most effective when given early in the course of illness, especially within the 48 hours of the start of the symptoms. Treatment is recommended for all patients with severe symptoms and for patients at high-risk for complications of the flu.
This includes children younger than 5 years of age and especially those younger than 2 years of age and children with chronic underlying medical conditions.
What can I do for my
To relieve your child’s pain and flu symptoms, first, administer fluids, and make sure your child is getting plenty of rest. Acetaminophen (Tylenol and other brands) helps with aches, pains and fever reduction. Aspirin should not be given to children with suspected influenza.
Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis treats more than 130,000 children each year in a 255-bed hospital. For more information call (901) 287-6030 or visit lebonheur.org.