Influenza - Symptoms, Management and Prevention
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|   Aug 28, 2014
Influenza - Symptoms, Management and Prevention

Dear Parents,

Its flu season again and you must be wondering, how to protect your kid from getting sick. Here is some basic information on flu for you.  

Influenza, commonly known as "flu," is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. It affects all age groups, although kids tend to get infected more often than adults.

In northern part of India, flu season runs from July to October, with most cases occurring between late August to September.

Signs and Symptoms of Flu
The flu symptoms are often confused with the common cold, however, it may be noted that flu symptoms are more severe than the typical sneezing and stuffiness of a cold.

Symptoms, which usually begin about 2 days after exposure to the virus, can include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • generalized body ache
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • running nose
  • nausea or vomiting
  • general weakness
  • at-times ear ache
  • diarrhea

Infants with flu may become irritable or just "not look right”-as observed by mom!!

Duration of illness
After 5 days, fever and other symptoms usually disappear, but cough and general weakness may continue. All symptoms are usually gone within a week or two. However, it's important to treat the flu seriously because it can lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening complications, particularly in infants, senior citizens, and people with long-term health problems.

Contagiousness
The flu is contagious, i.e. it spread by virus-infected droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air. People who are infected can spread the disease from a day before they feel sick until their symptoms have ended (about 1 week for adults, but this can be longer for young kids).

The flu spreads rapidly and affects many people in an area at the same time.

The most recent flu pandemic occurred in 2009-2010, with the H1N1 ("swine") flu.

If your child comes home from school with a sore throat, cough, and high fever it could be the flu or just a common cold.

How would you differentiate between flu and common cold?          

                                                                  

                          Flu Vs Common Cold

Symptoms

Flu 

Cold 

Onset of illness

sudden

slow

Fever

high fever

no (or mild) fever

Exhaustion

severe

mild

Headache

severe

no or mild

Appetite

decreased

normal

Muscle ache

achy

not much

Chills

chills present

no chills

But don't be too quick to brush off your child's illness as just another cold. The important thing to remember is that flu symptoms can vary from child to child (and they can change as the illness progresses), so if you suspect the flu, visit the doctor!

Some bacterial illnesses, like streptococcal throat infections or pneumonia, also present like the flu or a cold. Get medical attention immediately if your child seems:

  • to be getting worse
  • is having troubled breathing,
  • has a high grade fever,
  • seems confused
  • has bad headache,
  • has a sore throat,

Treatment and Management
Most of the time, you can care for your child by offering plenty of fluids, rest, extra comfort, cold sponging in case of high fever and symptomatic relief with Acetaminophen (paracetamol).

Some kids with chronic medical conditions may become sicker with the flu and need to be hospitalized, and flu in an infant also can be dangerous. For severely ill kids or those with other special circumstances, doctors may prescribe an antiviral medicine that can ease flu symptoms, but only if it's given within 48 hours of the onset of the flu.

And if the doctor says it's not the flu, your child should get a flu shot under medical consultation.

Prevention of Flu:  

Hand Washing

A delicious candy from a friend or playing football in the mud or splashing in the rain water, these are the ways kids bring home the germs. Kids often don't listen when you tell them to wash their hands before eating, after using the bathroom, or when they come inside from playing. But it's a message worth repeating.

Good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses, from the common cold to more serious illnesses such as meningitis, bronchiolitis, influenza, hepatitis A, and most types of infectious diarrhea

When kids come into contact with germs, they can unknowingly become infected simply by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. And once they're infected, it's usually just a matter of time before the whole family comes down with the same illness.

Don't underestimate the power of hand washing! The few seconds you and your child spend at the wash basin could save you trips to the doctor's office

In situations when soap and water is not readily available (and hands are not visibly dirty!!!), ask the child to use a hand sanitizer/ alcohol based hand scrub.


Fun activity for kids-Hand washing is important!!!!

In schools, teach the children the concept of importance of hand washing through a small, interesting activity explained below:

What you need: A packet of glitters, soap and water, sink or bowl, and towels.

  1. Put a small amount of glitter on children’s hands.
  2. Put children into 2 groups: have group 1 wash their hands with soap and group 2 without soap.
  3. Next, put glitter in your hand and then touch the children’s hands, shoulders, hair, etc. to show them how the glitter was transferred. Explain how germs are also transferred in this way.
  4. Show them how soap gets rid of the glitter (germs) better than water alone.

 Cough Hygiene- Basic cough hygiene need to be practiced for preventing the spread of infection from one person to another. 

  • Ask the child to cover his/her mouth and nose with a tissue when there is cough or sneeze.
  • Put the used tissue in the waste basket.
  • If there is no tissue, ask the kid to cough or sneeze into upper sleeve or elbow, not in hands.
  • In case of flu symptoms, putting on a facemask is another good option to protect others and prevent the spread of germs.

                                                                       

 

 

                                                                         

  • Flu vaccination-The flu vaccine is, indeed, a good idea for families. The flu shot does not cause the flu but it keeps kids and parents from getting sick.

Infants younger than 6 months can't get the vaccine, but if the parents and older kids in the household get the vaccine, it will help protect the baby as well (it is important as infants are more at risk of serious complications from the flu).

                                                                       

Who should be vaccinated?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu vaccine for everyone above the age of 6 months. But it's especially important for those in higher-risk groups to be vaccinated. These include:

  • all kids between 6 months to 4 years of ages
  • anyone 65 years and older
  • all women who are pregnant, are considering pregnancy, have recently given birth, or are breastfeeding during flu season
  • anyone whose immune system is weakened from medications or illnesses (like HIV infection)
  • residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes
  • adult or child with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma.
  • all health care personnel, caregivers or household contacts of anyone in a high-risk group (as children younger than 5 years old, especially those younger than 6 months, and those with high-risk conditions)

If your child falls into any of the groups below, talk to your doctor to see if the vaccine is still recommended:

  • infants under 6 months old
  • anyone who's ever had a severe reaction to a flu vaccination
  • a child with known egg allergy
  • anyone with Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare condition that affects the immune system and nerves)

These circumstances might prevent him/her from getting the vaccine.

When Should Kids Get Vaccinated? 

It's best to get a flu shot early, before the onset of flu season, as it gives the body a chance to build up immunity or protection from, the flu. But getting a shot later in the season is still better than not getting the vaccine at all.

                                                           

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