Aaachoo! Everything You Need to Know About the Flu!
It’s that dreaded time of year again. Snotty noses, fevers, body aches and many sleepless nights for kids and parents abound. It’s flu season! Get your saline, snot suckers, thermometers, and humidifiers ready! To prepare for the season, ispeakmom.com interviewed highly recommended Pediatricians, Dr. Gary Kramer and Dr. Rebeca Kimsey of Pediatric Specialists, Coral Gables.
Dr. Kramer and Dr. Kimsey shared that Influenza (or, “the flu”) is a serious infection that hospitalizes thousands of infants, children and adults each year. Last year alone,
there were over 100 influenza related deaths in children in the US.
They are giving their insight on flu prevention, when to visit the pediatrician and the difference between a cold and flu!
On flu prevention:
Dr. Gary Kramer –
“Awareness regarding the impact of Influenza surged during the H1N1 "Swine Flu" outbreak some years back. Since that time, the CDC recommendations have been modified to encourage prophylactic immunization to all individuals over 6 months of age. This is because it is impossible to articulate who may get exposed to the flu and, if so, to what degree the flu will affect that individual. Inoculation with each year's seasonal flu vaccine is the single most effective means of prevention. Beyond immunization, hand washing and avoidance of others with fever and upper respiratory symptoms that could potentially be caused by the flu, are the next most effective preventative measures.”
Dr. Rebeca Kimsey –
“Ultimately, the best way to prevent complications from influenza is to
avoid catching it in the first place. The flu vaccine is recommended
for everyone each year. It is generally safe, even for those with egg
allergy, and can be started in children as young as 6 months. For
those too young to receive the vaccine, having parents, caregivers and
older siblings vaccinated decreases the potential for exposure to the
Women who are pregnant can help protect their newborns by
receiving the vaccine in the second or third trimester so that their
infants can receive influenza antibodies prior to birth. In the past,
patients had a choice between an attenuated live virus vaccine given
via a nasal spray and an inactivated virus given intra-muscularly. The
nasal version of the flu vaccine could cause congestion and was more
likely than the inactive version to cause fever. Please keep in mind
though that the live attenuated vaccine is again not recommended this
year due to decreased efficacy thus no one will catch the flu directly
from the vaccine.
Many people are disappointed that you can still get the flu even after you’ve had the vaccine. This is because although your immune system’s response is effective, it is short lived and the
vaccine strain doesn’t always match the strain that is circulating in the community. In a well-matched year, the vaccine is 60% effective at reducing the number of influenza infections; however it is even more effective at reducing hospitalizations and deaths from influenza. Thus
even if you catch the flu in a year that you also received the vaccine, you will be much less affected. Peak immunity from the vaccine takes approximately 1 month, so it is ideal to be vaccinated by October each year.
Other ways to decrease the spread of infection include frequent handwashing as well as covering your coughs and sneezes to minimize spread of droplets containing the virus. A simple trick is to teach your child to cough or sneeze onto their shoulder within their shirt so that their hands stay clean. Although there is no particular vitamin or supplement that is proven to boost your defenses, a well-rounded diet, regular exercise and restful sleep can certainly help keep our immune system at its best.”
On what warrants a trip to the pediatrician:
Dr. Gary Kramer –
“Every child with fever, cough and congestion, does not necessary require a visit to the pediatrician. Generally speaking, any child with an unmanageable fever, difficulty breathing, trouble staying hydrated, neck stiffness or ill appearance should be seen by a doctor. There is no particular temperature or length of illness that dictates a need for evaluation.”
Dr. Rebeca Kimsey –
“Children with fever of more than 102, difficulty breathing, repeated vomiting and/or decreased urine output should be seen by their physician immediately. Thankfully, the flu is a relatively
preventable and treatable infection. If caught within the first 48 hours, there is a medication that can shorten the course of the illness and soften symptoms. Like all medications, this is not a magic bullet and does have significant side effects so discuss with your pediatrician if they think this is a good option for your family.”
On the difference between a flu and a regular cold:
Dr. Gary Kramer –
“It is often difficult to discern the difference between a flu and a regular cold. Flu symptoms may include but are not limited to fever, body aches, particularly of the thighs and calves, watery eyes, headache, runny nose, and fatigue. There is no single pathognomonic symptom of influenza. There is a rapid antigen detection test in most offices and certainly in hospitals which can detect certain strains of Influenza in patients with detectable levels of infection. People throw the term "flu" around loosely, but the only true means of diagnosis is via direct testing.”
Dr. Rebeca Kimsey:
“The flu virus generally results in a more severe and longer lasting infection than viruses that cause the common cold and has more "whole body" symptoms than your typical cold. It typically presents with higher fevers, nausea/vomiting, runny nose, body aches and wet cough. It is highly contagious through the spread of droplets from coughing or sneezing onto any of a person's mucosal orifices or surfaces that others may touch then rub onto their own eyes, nose or mouth.
Those at highest risk of complications from the flu include children less than 5 years old and especially those that are under 2, children with chronic medical diseases such as asthma, diabetes, cardiac or neurologic conditions, women who are pregnant and adults older than
Follow Dr. Kramer and Dr. Kimsey on Instagram @drgarykramer for more helpful, health tips for your little ones!
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