With the 2017-2018 flu season gearing up, parents may be wondering how they can protect their kids from getting sick.
Dr. Tina Tan, attending physician in Infectious Diseases at Lurie Children’s and chairperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Infectious Diseases, answers questions and offers some tips on this year’s flu vaccine and preventing illness.
What are some typical flu symptoms?
- Fever (101⁰F, 38.3⁰C or higher)
- Body aches
- Sore throat
These are usual flu symptoms for older children and adolescents. However, Dr. Tan notes that babies may not have many symptoms at all. If your infant is fussier than usual or experiencing fever, diarrhea or vomiting for more than a day, she suggests making a call to your physician.
How does the flu spread?
When the flu is found in school, daycare, and in families, it is typically started and spread by children. Young kids carry higher levels of the virus so when they’re in a close environment, like school, it’s very easy for the illness to spread. Then, kids get home and pass it to their families who spread it in the community.
When should you see a doctor for flu symptoms?
Most children with the flu won’t need medical care or testing, but if your child’s symptoms are severe, you should give a call to your pediatrician or family physician. Your doctor can help you decide on a proper treatment plan. Overall, children with flu symptoms should be doing the following:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Get rest
- Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Do not give your child aspirin
- Stay home from school if they have a fever
- Don’t give cough and cold medicine to children under 4 years of age
How can you prevent the flu?
- Get the flu vaccine!
- Wash your hands
- Cover your cough and sneeze
Who should get the flu shot?
- EVERYONE ages 6 months and older
This includes, but is not limited to, children and adolescents with conditions that increase the risk of complications from the flu (i.e. diabetes, asthma, immunosuppression, etc.), health care personnel and childcare providers.
The only contraindication for the flu shot is an anaphylactic reaction to eggs. Even those with minor allergies should still get vaccinated.
I got a flu shot last year – do I have to get one this year too?
Definitely. The different strains of the flu change every year, and each year the vaccine is targeted to those strains that are most commonly found throughout the season.
Can I get the nasal flu vaccine this year?
Actually, the nasal flu vaccine is no longer available in the United States. It was found to be ineffective, so this year’s only vaccination option is the flu shot.
For kids with chronic health conditions:
Kids with chronic health conditions ranging from asthma to cancer are at increased risk for complications from the flu, so it’s especially important for them to be vaccinated. These complications could include ear infections, severe pneumonia, bacterial superinfection, respiratory failure or necrotizing encephalitis. Because children with chronic health conditions may not respond as robustly to the flu vaccine, meaning they may not develop the same level of immunity, it’s important that everyone around them get vaccinated as well.