Fall 2011
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It's That Time of Year Again — Flu Season

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While it's too early to predict how severe flu season will be, Dr. Pat Crocker says it's the perfect time to get an influenza vaccination and avoid the virus this winter.

"It's really hard to predict what kind of flu season we will see, but the good news is the vaccine perfectly matches to the flus that are out there," added Dr. Crocker, who serves as medical director for Dell Children's Medical Center Emergency Department.

Dismissing media reports on how the current vaccine may not be effective, Dr. Crocker said, "It's an ill-advised decision (to not get vaccinated). A vaccination is still the best thing we can do to avoid the flu and other complications that can result."

He also cautioned that flu is expected to spike following Thanksgiving, when families and friends travel for miles to spend time together, share meals – and share germs.

"It's coming," he warned.

What Is Influenza?
Influenza (flu) is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by influenza viruses. There are many different influenza viruses that are constantly changing.

People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk.

Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days.

Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus, but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.

Symptoms
The Flu.gov website advises parents to watch for any signs that children don't feel well and to pay attention to any unusual behavior. All types of flu can cause:

  • Fever
  • Coughing and/or sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches and/or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

Call your doctor right away if your child gets sick. Antiviral medications used to treat flu in some patients work best when started within the first two days – 48 hours – of getting sick.

Children younger than 5 years old and children with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, may be at higher risk for complications from flu. Check with your doctor about any special treatment requirements for them.

Prevention
Along with getting a flu shot, here are some simple steps you and your family can take to avoid getting and spreading the flu:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the used tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • If you get sick, stay home until you are fever-free for 24 hours without needing any anti-fever medicines such as Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin). Do not give children aspirin.
Flu Season
goodhealth.com


Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.