We have all heard the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well, when it comes to preventing the flu, your child’s annual flu vaccine is worth a pound of cure. With flu season arriving, it is time to consider vaccinating your child. While hand washing is important in the prevention and spread of the flu virus and other germs, the very best “ounce of prevention” a parent can give their child is the annual flu vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a total of 183 pediatric deaths were reported during last year’s 2017-2018 season, half of which were in otherwise healthy children. Of the 183 pediatric deaths, 80% of the children did not receive a seasonal flu vaccine.
What is the flu?
Influenza (aka The Flu) is a viral respiratory illness that can cause high fever for several days, chills, cough, sore throat, congestion, body aches and fatigue in most cases. Flu related illnesses include pneumonia, dehydration, and ear and sinus infections. The flu can worsen already existing medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes, which can lead to hospitalization. The flu can also be more serious in children under the age of 5 years. Talk with your physician to determine if your child falls in the high-risk category.
When is flu season?
While the influenza virus circulates year round in the United States, flu season typically occurs in the fall and winter or between October and March every year. The peak of the season usually occurs around January and February each year.
How is the flu treated?
Treatment of the flu is mainly supportive and aimed at making symptoms more manageable for your child. The body’s natural defense system, in time, will help your child make a full recovery. Be prepared for your child to experience high fever 103-104°F that can persist for several days. Occasionally a child will hallucinate with high fever. Treating fever includes giving your child a fever reducer, either acetaminophen or ibuprofen (NEVER GIVE ASPIRIN), applying cool compresses, and removing clothing if needed. Occasionally a tepid bath helps in lowering body temperature. Other supportive measures include plenty of oral hydration (children should sip on fluids throughout the day) and rest/sleep.
What is Tamiflu?
You may hear about Tamiflu, an antiviral medication, during flu season. Tamiflu works by decreasing the replication of the influenza virus but is not considered a cure for the flu. Tamiflu may shorten the duration of illness by a day or two, but is not recommended for the healthy pediatric patient older than 2 years due to cost, poor efficacy and side effects such as nausea and vomiting. Children most likely to benefit from Tamiflu are under the age of 2 years or have high-risk medical conditions. Tamiflu works best when started within 48hrs of illness. Talk with your child’s physician to determine whether Tamiflu is appropriate as part of your child’s treatment regimen.
When should my child be vaccinated?
While hand washing is important in the prevention and spread of the flu virus and other germs, the very best “ounce of prevention” a parent can give their child is the annual flu vaccine. It takes about two weeks for your child’s immunes system to build up to protective levels after receiving the flu vaccine. Therefore, ideally, vaccination is recommended before flu begins spreading your community. However, vaccinations are offered throughout flu season and are beneficial and recommended.
If my child is allergic to eggs, is it okay to get the flu vaccine?
Yes, egg allergy is NOT a contraindication to the flu vaccine. It is recommended that your child be given the vaccine in a supervised healthcare setting such as our clinic, and you do not need to wait 30 minutes after the vaccine is given before leaving.
Other Helpful Flu Resources:
Flu Symptoms and Complications (CDC):
The Flu (HealthyChildren.org):
Treating With Tamiflu (CDC):
Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives (CDC):
Call 706-868-0389 for flu clinic information or to schedule your child’s flu vaccine.
–George Lazari, MD
Click here to learn more about Dr. Lazari