Pediatrician’s Corner – Dr. Pradeep Gidwani
It is flu season, which usually starts in the fall and ends in the spring. Parents and child care providers can help prevent and slow the spread of flu. The flu (influenza) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus and can spread rapidly through communities as the virus is passed from person to person. When someone with the flu coughs or sneezes, the influenza virus gets into the air, and people nearby, including children, can inhale it. The virus also can be spread when your child touches a hard surface, such as a door handle, and then places his hand or fingers in his nose/mouth or rubs his eye.
The flu is more serious than the common cold. Each year many children are hospitalized and some die from the flu. Children and adolescents with a chronic health condition, such as asthma, diabetes, and disorders of the brain or nervous system are at high risk for flu complications.
The flu vaccine is the best protection. Everyone 6 months and older needs a flu vaccine each year. Babies cannot get vaccinated until they are 6 months old. It is critical that people who live with or care for children, especially infants younger than 6 months, get vaccinated. Vaccinating adults who are around an infant to prevent illnesses is often referred to as “cocooning.” The flu vaccine has few side effects, the most common side effects of the flu shot are redness, soreness or swelling at the injection site, and fever.
A few minutes of killing germs can go a long way toward keeping you and those around you healthy. Parents and child care providers can do their part to kill germs and also teach young children how and when to wash their hands.
For children with the flu, lots of tender loving care is needed. Children benefit from extra bed rest and plenty of fluids. If your child is uncomfortable because of a fever, acetaminophen or ibuprofen in doses recommended by your pediatrician for his age and weight will help him feel better. Ibuprofen is approved for use in children six months of age and older; however, it should never be given to children who are dehydrated or who are vomiting continuously.
It is extremely important never to give aspirin to a child who has the flu or is suspected of having the flu. Aspirin during bouts of influenza is associated with an increased risk of developing Reye’s syndrome, an extremely rare but serious illness that can affect the brain and liver.
For more information about the flu vaccination, prevention, symptoms and treatment, visit www.flu.gov.