Flu season is here. These are some commonly asked questions about the flu in our office. First, here is some background information about how serious the flu can be. From the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) last flu season over 100 children died from the flu, of which 80% were not vaccinated against the flu. 1000s more children were hospitalized due to complications of the flu.
“What are some signs my child could have the flu?”
Common signs of the flu are sudden onset of fever, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, headaches and/or cough (typically dry). Runny/stuffy nose, sore throat and/or phlegmy cough are typically more seen with other types of common cold viruses, but can occasionally be seen with the flu. A child can start showing signs of the flu 1 to 4 days after the virus enters his or her body.
“My child has been diagnosed with the flu, is there a treatment?”
Your body will fight the flu virus on its own. All children with the flu should drink plenty of fluids and rest, in addition to good hand hygiene and covering his or her mouth during coughing. Your child may return to school once fever free for at least 24 hours. There is a flu anti-viral medication called Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) which may shorten flu symptoms by 1 to 2 days if started within 24-48 hours of the start of flu symptoms. It is used at the discretion of the physician and is typically reserved for children with severe chronic illnesses.
“Does the flu vaccine make you get the flu?”
No. Most common side effects from the flu vaccine are rash and pain at the injection site which resolve on their own in a few days. Children are commonly exposed to cold viruses through the fall and winter months which can coincidentally start showing signs around the time a child gets a flu vaccine.
“What are the types of flu vaccine?”
Currently there is only 1 type of flu vaccine which is the “inactive” version given as an injection into the muscle. The “live” version or nasal spray flu vaccine was discontinued a few years ago as it was not shown to be effective in preventing the flu.
“My child received the flu vaccine this year, can he or she still get the flu?”
The vaccine decreases the risk of getting the flu that flu season (Fall/Winter). A child can still get the flu despite vaccination; however, the symptoms are often less severe and occur for less amount of time. Many parents also mistake other viral illnesses during winter months for the flu.
“When should my child get the flu vaccine?”
As early as possible. It takes 2 weeks for a person’s body to make antibodies against the flu vaccine. Peak flu months are late November through March.
“My child is too young for the vaccine. What can we do to prevent the flu?”
Infants under 6 months cannot receive the flu vaccine. It is important for all parents, siblings, and caregivers to be vaccinated against the flu to make a “flu cocoon” around the infant and limit his/her exposure to the flu.
“ Why does my child need a flu vaccine every year?”
The influenza virus alters itself from year to year to try and hide itself from our immune system. A different flu vaccine is given each year to address these changes the virus makes from year to year.
“ Why do some children need 2 flu shots in 1 season?”
Children who receive the flu shot for the first time between the ages of 6 months and 8 years old need 2 flu shots during the same season to maximize immune response. Each following flu season a child would only need 1 flu shot per flu season.
”Neither my child nor I have ever gotten the flu. Do we need the flu shot?”
Yes, even though a person has never gotten the flu, they are still at the same increased risk if they do not get their yearly vaccine.
“My child has an egg allergy, can he or she still get the vaccine at the Peachtree Park Office?”
Yes, your child can receive his or her flu vaccine at our office, even with an egg allergy.