What is the flu?
Influenza (“flu”) is a contagious disease that spreads around the United States every year, usually between October and May.
Symptoms vary, but can include fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and runny or stuffy nose. Anyone is susceptible to the influenza virus, which can come on suddenly.
Flu can lead to more serious infections and each year, thousands of people are hospitalized from flu complications. Flu is also more dangerous for some people such as nfants and young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions or a weakened immune system are at greatest risk. Flu also can make chronic medical problems worse, including asthma and heart disease.
What is the cause?
People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away mainly via droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
Children may be able to pass the flu virus to others for more than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body which means you are contagious before you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms, and they may spread the virus to others.
The best form of prevention is to get a flu vaccine. It is also important to avoid infected people, who should also stay home when sick, and to wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
How can my child receive the flu shot?
The first and best protection against flu is a simple flu vaccine. A flu shot can keep your child from getting flu, make the flu less severe if he or she does get it, and keeps him or her from spreading flu to others. Since there is no live flu virus in flu shots, they cannot cause the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have indicated that the nasal spray flu vaccine called FluMist® (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) is not effective on this year's strains and is not being manufactured.
The Pediatric Group offers the flu vaccine to anyone aged 6 months and up. Our version is quadrivalent (offering protection against four strains of influenza). If your child is under the age of 2 years, and/or has a diagnosis of asthma or reactive airway disease (RAD), he or she will be scheduled with a provider. Otherwise, flu vaccines are administered by our nursing staff.
We have a limited supply of preservative-free flu vaccine so if you would like this option, please request it when scheduling the appointment.
All administered flu vaccines are submitted to your insurance. If you do not have insurance, flu shots are available for a discounted cost under the federal VFC (Vaccines for Children) program.
Please make an appointment online or call the Pediatric Group at 410-273-2273 to make a flu shot appointment for your child.
Why is there a new flu vaccine every year?
The seasonal influenza (flu) vaccine is designed to protect against the influenza viruses which research indicates are most likely to spread and cause illness among people during the upcoming flu season. Flu viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine composition is updated each year. The vaccine available at the Pediatric Group is the quadrivalent version, meaning that it protects against four strains — the highest number available.
How can I take care of my child if he or she gets the flu?
- Offer plenty of fluids (fever, which is common with the flu, can lead to dehydration). For alternatives to plain water, try ice pops, icy drinks mixed in a blender, and soft fruits like melons or grapes
- Encourage your child to rest in bed or on the couch with a supply of magazines, books, quiet music, and perhaps a favorite movie
- Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) for aches and pains; don't give aspirin as it has been linked to a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome
- Dress your child in layers to add and remove clothing during times of chills or fever
- Take care of yourself and the others family members; wash your hands often, especially after picking up used tissues, and be sure everyone in the house is vaccinated against the flu
How long does it last?
The most severe symptoms can last several days, and most people feel much better in one to two weeks. If your child has had the flu vaccine and still gets sick, he or she will almost always have symptoms that don't last as long and are less severe.
Call our office at 410-721-2273 or go to the ER if:
- Breathing becomes rapid or difficult
- Your child has a bluish skin color
- He or she is not drinking enough fluids
- Your child is not waking up, not interacting, or being so irritable that he or she does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- He or she has a fever with a rash