Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory virus and it’s important to distinguish influenza from a viral stomach bug, or gastroenteritis, commonly called “stomach flu.” In this information, we are discussing viral respiratory influenza.
Flu season historically starts in the beginning of October, peaking somewhere between December and February, and ends as late as May. Influenza vaccine administration typically begins in August or September, when vaccines are available.
What are the Flu Symptoms in Children?
In its milder forms, influenza can be confused for another contagious respiratory illness such as the common cold. Common colds are caused by a variety of viruses that cause similar but typically less intense symptoms than influenza. Symptoms of both illnesses involve fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, aches and fatigue. Young children may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can be confused with viral gastroenteritis, or the so-called “stomach flu.”
Influenza symptoms can include:
- Muscle and body aches and pains
- Cough, either dry or with mucus
- Congestion, runny nose or sneezing
- Fever, chills
- Loss of appetite and dehydration
- Sweating and flushing
- Chest pressure, shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
Additionally, research shows that influenza can exacerbate existing medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. Individuals with these underlying conditions are at greater risk for developing complications due to influenza.
What Are the Flu Treatments for Children in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn, IL?
Many flu sufferers recover by resting, staying hydrated, and using acetaminophen (Tylenol or Motrin) to treat fever and pain. Anti-viral medications such as Tamiflu are also available to relieve symptoms and shorten recovery time. Antiviral drugs are recommended for patients with an increased risk of developing complications from the flu.
Is Flu Dangerous for Babies?
In over half of U.S. cases, flu sufferers recover on their own with rest, hydration, and over-the-counter fever and pain reducers. However, when flu symptoms persist and intensify, they can cause complications including:
- Sinus infection
- Inflammation of the heart, brain, and muscle tissue
While influenza, the common cold, and gastroenteritis share common symptoms, the flu can have significantly more serious health outcomes. Influenza poses an increased risk to children under 5 and the elderly, patients with lower immunity. During the 2020-2021 flu season, the CDC estimates there were 35 million influenza cases. About 380,000 patients required hospitalization and about 20,000 cases were fatal. Between 7,000 and 26,000 children are hospitalized with the flu each year, and hundreds of children die from influenza each year.
How Alzein Pediatrics Can Keep Your Child Safe From The Flu in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn, IL?
The very best way to improve influenza health outcomes and reduce the spread of the flu virus is with annual vaccination.
Because the influenza virus is constantly changing, and because some strains pose different risks than others, the influenza vaccine changes every season. Additionally, flu vaccinations generally only provide about 6 months of protection, so people need a new shot every season, and sometimes even a booster.
Each year, the CDC analyzes influenza strains in the population to identify the types and strains likely to spread in the upcoming flu season. Scientists use this information to develop a 4-strain vaccine.
How Does the Flu Vaccine Work?
The flu vaccines work by introducing the virus’s unique protein markers into the body. Separate from the virus itself, these protein markers cannot replicate and spread, but they can still cause an immune response. This initial immune response trains the body to recognize and combat as much of any influenza virus it recognizes in the upcoming season.
The Mayo Clinic reports that the single easiest way to decrease both the risk of contracting influenza and the severity of the illness should a person still contract it is to get a vaccine. For this reason, the CDC recommends everyone over the age of 6 months get a seasonal flu shot.
Flu Shots in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn, IL
When Should My Child and I get Vaccinated in the Oak Lawn area?
It’s never too late in the season to get a flu shot. While the strongest immunity develops two weeks after vaccination and lasts up to 6 months, there are proven immune benefits in those intervening weeks. In some cases, we may recommend a second shot, at least four weeks apart, to extend protection depending on the patient and the flu season. This second dose is particularly helpful in strengthening the developing immune systems of young children. It also adds an additional layer of protection for younger people who don’t always make the most hygienic choices; kids love to touch everything and tend to not like washing hands, making it more likely they will encounter the influenza virus.
Unfortunately, the rate of seasonal influenza vaccination in the U.S. remains lower than necessary. Only about 60% of healthy U.S. children were vaccinated in the 2020-2021 flu season. Please, get your children and yourself vaccinated each fall.
Have questions about the influenza virus or the flu shot? Just access your patient portal and send us a message.
Ready to schedule your flu shot? Please call 708-424-7600!