COLORADO SPRINGS – As flu activity is rising across the country we’re following up on yesterday’s story about preventing the spread of the flu and how to avoid it.
According to the CDC, flu activity is now widespread in 24 states across the U.S., and 13 children have died as a result of influenza-related illness this flu season.
When it comes to prevention, nothing beats a flu vaccine.
“First and foremost, I would always encourage parents and caregivers to think about prevention by vaccine – that is the first, most important thing one can think about,” said Purva Grover, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s.
Dr. Mark Wesselman, M.D., who specializes in internal medicine at UCHealth Primary Care Chapel Hills in Colorado Springs says, ”The flu is spread by droplets from a sneeze or cough. If your sneeze or cough gets on the furniture or a piece of equipment, the virus can stay alive (there) for a little while.”
Dr. Grover, and Dr. Wesselman both stress getting a flu vaccine is vital, when trying to avoid serious flu-related complications.
Dr. Grover explains, “Younger kids, especially the very little ones, and high-risk patients who have leukemia or are otherwise immunocompromised, can get very, very sick. This could include multiple complications from what may seem as simple as a high fever, to difficulty breathing, affecting the respiratory system, to conditions which affect the heart.”
If a child becomes ill with the flu, make sure they have medication to keep their fever under control, and keep them hydrated with plenty of fluids and try to keep them as comfortable as possible. “If you get the flu, remember plenty of fluids with Tylenol to help with the pains,” says Dr. Wesselman.
The flu is a virus, so there are no specific medications to treat it, which can be frustrating and worrisome for parents, and it can take five to seven days before a child really starts feeling better.
However, if a child has been given medication to reduce a fever and it’s not coming down, or if the child is not urinating more than twice a day, or has difficulty breathing – these are all warning signs of possible complications that need prompt medical attention.
Dr. Grover said the flu can be scary for parents, and gauging the severity of symptoms can often feel like a guessing game for them.
But when in doubt, she said it’s always best for parents to trust their instincts if they feel that something isn’t right.
“At any given point, if you feel something is not right with your child – it could be the way he or she is breathing, the way he or she looks, the way their color might be – all of those things – can be sign of a complication, and it’s better to seek medical attention than to forego it,” said Dr. Grover.
Finally, it’s important to keep children home until they’ve been fever-free, without the aid of fever-reducing medications, for at least 24 hours. If they head back to school or activities before this point, the child is still contagious and can spread the illness to others.
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