Fortunately, the children I'm seeing with flu right now are not terribly sick.
By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
Flu season is definitely upon us and unfortunately it's hitting just in time for the holidays! I've been on call for the last two weekends and I can assure you, flu is everywhere. You name it and you're probably being exposed somewhere, including the mall, grocery stores, churches and synagogues, restaurants, day care centers, schools, airports, offices ... the list is endless. I say this because patients continue to ask, "Where do you think I got this?"
To compound the problem, holiday gatherings offer many chances for respiratory viruses to spread in crowded, mostly indoor settings.
Fortunately, despite this year's flu vaccine not being a "good match" for the Influenza A (H3N2) that's widely circulating, the children I'm seeing with flu (and yes, I've already seen hundreds of them) are not terribly sick.
They do have the typical fever, cough, sore throat, headache and body aches that typically come with flu, but many are only running a fever for 1-3 days, and when the fever is down they're playing video games, watching TV and helping make holiday goodies. I haven't seen anyone with a serious complication. I'm hopeful that this continues.
Many patients are wondering about using Tamiflu (being advertising heavily right now). I'm using Tamiflu for children who are high-risk (under 2 years old, have underlying illnesses, are immune-compromised, have significant asthma, etc.). For most children, the flu can be handled at home with the usual symptomatic treatment: fever control, fluids, rest and parental TLC (tender loving care).
I would always watch for any respiratory distress and make sure your child stays hydrated. In most cases, I bet the fever is gone in a day or two and the youngster is left with a nasty cough (the same goes for the parents). I always warn parents to watch for any recurrence of fever later in the illness, which makes me worry about a secondary infection which would require a visit to the doctor.
The best form of prevention right now is to make sure everyone in the family gets a flu vaccine; some protection is always better than none. Wash your hands, eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, and if you're sick, please stay home! We've got several more months of flu to go, after all. Winter is just settling in.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. "The Kid's Doctor" TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid's Doctor e-book, "Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today's Teen," is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.)
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This column was printed in the January 25, 2015 - February 7, 2015 edition.